Monday, March 10, 2008

Day 8: Ninja Quest

I have a theory about role-playing games. In good role-playing games, the player fights enemies that fit in the game's genre. Sword and sorcery games have goblins and dragons. Sci-fi games have cyborgs and aliens. Bad role-playing games try to distract players from their badness by using out of place enemies. Robots in a sword and sorcery game for example. Or enemies that aren't even enemies, like dining room furniture. In really bad role-playing games, the player fights clip art.

Ninja Quest is a really bad role-playing game. There's nothing very "ninja" about it at all. It's a typical first-person dungeon crawl, a la Wizardry, with a clumsy interface and a fervent belief that putting the word "zombie" in front of any random word automatically makes it funny.

Right away Ninja Quest gave me problems. I had to change my computer's screen resolution to 1280 x 960 just to see the whole thing. That's a lot of screen for a text adventure with pictures. Typing which direction I want to move is fine. It's quaint. It's retro. Having to type the exact right thing in order to pick up an item is annoying. Upon finding a grenade lying on the dungeon floor, I typed "get grenade." Nothing happened. "Get 1 grenade." Nothing. "Get 1 grenades." I am now the proud owner of 1 hand grenades.

When an encounter begins, a new window appears asking me to select which weapon I want to use by entering a number from 0 to 5. This window completely overrides the regular command input, meaning that I don't have the option to flee a battle. Having players type "use hatchet" would work just as well and give them more options.

The images of the so-called zombies look sloppy. Everything in the game has a jagged white edge. Some of them are photos, some are drawings, all of them look out of place in front of that Apple II green background and none of them have been zombified in the least. Photoshop is your friend. A few minutes turning things green and adding a little decay would have improved the look and enhanced the retro flavor.

I guess you get what you pay for, and Ninja Quest is freeware.

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