It seems as though ever since Dark Souls made the hard-as-nails genre a thing, imitators have spawned from every corner. While some understand what makes a game hard yet fair, such as Super Meat Boy, more often than not it’s mistakenly interpreted as giving you duff controls, unpreventable deaths or cheesing you with an unholy amount of enemies. Super Hyperactive Ninja unfortunately follows some of the latter, with odd controls and plenty of deaths that feel unfair due to something as silly as an obstacle appearing almost out of nowhere.
A simple opening plot involving ninjas, coffee and the powers of caffeine sets up the premise. By default, your character has a plodding pace but is unable to do anything but jump. Holding the trigger will active caffeine mode, enabling extra speed along with wall jumping and the ability to defeat enemies. Using said caffeine, your ninja will speed through stages knocking anything in their path out of the way. Well, unless it’s a solid object, in which case they’ll instantly start running the other way. This, however, can be more of a curse than a blessing.
Navigating a tricky section of platforming, only to turn around and die instantly by running back into danger, frustrates, oftentimes feeling like the slightly unresponsive controls were to blame rather than your reaction time. The same applies when the enemy happens to turn around milliseconds before you reach them, given that most enemies are only able to be defeated by running into them from behind. While patrolling they will periodically turn to face you, killing in one hit with swords or shuriken attacks. Letting go of the trigger will stop you on a dime, but also cause your character to be stationary for a few seconds.
This means that even if you stop before running into them, they still have plenty of time to kill you and force a checkpoint restart. Moments like this are at least pretty well spaced apart, somewhat reducing the hair-pulling rage a smidgen. Various powerups and characters are collected throughout, enabling you – with boosted caffeine or powers – to traverse the levels a tad easier. These don’t appear to travel with you from stage to stage, which may have made progression a bit more bearable. However, it all comes back to the stodgy controls. Even when having a helping hand, it all seems negated by a character that is, ironically, too slow to respond.
Perhaps the amount of caffeine in the system here is having the opposite effect. There’s also some poor input detection while platforming, which in-turn throws in some daft collision detection, such as missing a platform by mere pixels, causing you to slide down to your doom. It isn’t fun. The whole presentation is similar to that of a mobile game, with big, bold characters that stand out thanks to its paper-craft appearance. Everything loads quickly, and while minimal, the animation gives some character to the game. The soundtrack is horrendous though, something that I muted within minutes. If you can persevere with the game, a custom soundtrack or podcast is essential.
I like a challenge in my games, and when done well it can make a great game soar even higher. Here however, a pretty bog standard game is hard to its detriment. It’s made all that more harder by its lack of refinement. If the controls were more responsive and the game didn’t shower its players with cheap deaths at a regular pace, there could have been a few hours of fun to be had here, but as it stands, the frustration settles in quickly and no amount of powerups really alleviates this. Still, even on mute, I can still hear that awful music…
Super Hyperactive Ninja may have been a decent game if its stodgy controls, poor collision detection and its shower of cheap deaths didn’t dramatically hold the game back. There’s nothing wrong with a game that wants to seriously challenge its players, but when that challenge comes solely from its poor development and baffling design choices, it’s far too hard to overlook, or more importantly, enjoy.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.
Editor Note: This review has been amended. The editor – Mark Sherwood – had uploaded a draft copy of the review rather than the “fleshed out and amended” final copy. This minor error was a mistake on the editor’s part and we will ensure that it will not happen again. We have apologized to the developer and now apologize to you for the inconvenience. We allow our reviewers complete creative freedom, as such, the score and conclusion remains the same.