Friday, August 16, 2013

SC On Ninjabread Man (Wii)

This will go exactly how you think it will.

I could just say this game is awful and move on, but you already know that, don't you?   So why am I writing this blog?  Partly because it's a slow day at work and partly because most of the people I see talk about this video don't get further in depth than 'the motion controls suck and this game sucks.'  Did I mention it's also a slow day at work?

Let's start by going back in time a bit, before Ninjabread Man ever came out.  There was a British company called Data Design Systems formed in the mid-1980s to make games for the Atari and ZX Spectrum platforms.  They eventually became Data Design Interactive in the 90s, somehow getting by purely on licensed titles such as Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy while churning out such gems as Rise of the Robots and Tonka Space Station.

Then they decided to stop screwing around when the Wii came out and started producing the Popcorn Arcade label to go after casual gamers with low/budget-priced games.  In addition, they developed G.O.D.S. (Game Oriented Development System) to develop cross-platform games faster and with only a few staffers.

In other words, DDI developed a way to push a lot of games with a short development time onto a lot of different systems.

 A dumb parent and their money soon go separate ways.

The games sold moderately well, but were also lambasted by critics.  The studio itself was at points singled out as being responsible for the "shovelware" tag the Wii couldn't get rid of and even blamed by some for hurting the system's credibility with titles like Action Girlz Racing and the Kidz Sports series.  DDI eventually stopped trading in 2009, robbing the gaming world of such future classics as Kidz Sports: Crazy Mini Golf 2 and the sequel to Ninjabread Man.

That being said, Ninjabread Man.

Essentially the same game as Anubis 2 and Rock n' Roll Adventures (from the same company), Ninjabread Man is about stopping an evil army of cakes and bees (?) called the tooth-rotters (only know that because the instruction booklet said so) from taking over Candy Land. (Doesn't explain the bees, but okay!) At least that's what the back of the box says.  However, not only is this never addressed anywhere except the back of the box, every level revolves around grabbing eight blue... vials?  Power sources?  I don't know, but they power up a teleporter to get the hell out of each level except the mandatory training stage.  Apparently Ninjabread Man fights off evil by getting the hell away from it, because even the last level has him getting in a teleporter instead of fighting... whatever he's supposedly fighting.

Running: the one thing Ninjabread Man does well.

Actually doing this is a major challenge, mostly because of the controls.  Sword swings are tied to swinging the Wii remote, but most of the time they either don't register or register after an enemy has already landed a hit.  Hell, there were times where, while the Wii remote was motionless on the ground, I had my character doing sword swings by trying to jump.

Oh, jumping.  For the longest time this was my biggest problem with the game.

Jumping is done by raising the nunchuk straight up, and you need to double jump to get through the bulk of the game's platforming sections.  I wound up having to point the nunchuck at the ceiling and make a punching motion for it to register once, and beyond that it was a 50/50 chance for the second jump to register at all.

Complicating this even more is the way Ninjabread Man (screw it, I'm calling him Jim from now on) moves.  Jim essentially has three movement speeds; standing still, beginning to lurch forward before an all-out sprint, and all-out sprint.  The second only happens for a moment before he takes off at full speed, so it's more like two speeds.  There was one time I got him to walk, but it didn't last longer than a second or two before he did his best Road Runner impression.  This, coupled with Jim's jump height being about six inches, makes even the most basic of platforming a pain in the ass.

That is, until I realized that the Z button also jumps.  It still has moments where it doesn't register, but it's way more consistent than the motion controls.  Oh, and the instructions never say Z is a secondary jump button.

I googled "consistency is amazing" and got this.

The other means of attack, which is much easier to use, is the... pink... glob... things that Jim throws at enemies.  They're in unlimited supply and, though Jim has to stand still to use them, they also function as a means of moving the camera around outside of repeatedly resetting its position behind Jim.  They also have lock-on, since the aiming is so sensitive the reticule bounces all over the screen virtually regardless of how steady your hand is.

There's also a "bomb" attack, which I didn't know existed until reading the instruction booklet.  Even the training level never mentions it.  As such, I never used it.  Good thing too, as it involves a combination of holding and releasing A and swinging the Wiimote away from and toward the TV.  Stonekeep: Bones of the Ancestors taught me that's a recipe for disaster.

Then again, you might not actually attack anything.  It's actually better to avoid fighting anything since, even though there aren't many enemy types and most just try to run into you (which also has weird hit detection involved), the biggest threat are the slices of cake that spit heat-seeking... things at Jim.  These and the random landmines which can hit Jim from several feet above or below him and a good ten feet beyond the visible blast radius are the only real threats, more so because they'll knock him off platforms than because they do a lot of damage.  Everything in this game can only take off one heart of damage at a time, and every enemy (except the bees) drops a heart when killed... which flies out of Jim's reach in a few seconds.

With all of these problems though, the game does have one saving grace.  It's only 4 levels long if you count the training stage.  On my first try, I beat the game in under an hour-and-a-half, and when I went mildly insane and tried it again, I beat the game in about 20 minutes.

And by the way, there is no ending.  It just cuts back to the title screen.

You think you had it bad?

The only other really noteworthy thing about this game is its website, which still exists (  For the most part it's a bunch of tripe trying to up-sell the game's quality (or lack thereof) but there is one saving grace.  Apparently they wanted to get some fan feedback on what they wanted in the sequel and, amazingly, those few people that somehow derived enjoyment from this game responded.

 I may have a burnt face, but that doesn't mean I can't take over the world!
Take that Ninjabread Man, you shit!  Wa ha ha ha!

The amount of MS Paint creations and shoddy printer paper sketches that you'd expect to see Maddox make fun of in his free time is limited, but still quite something to behold.  There are even one or two people who can actually draw AND had unique ideas I doubt Data Design Interactive would ever be smart enough to come up with themselves.  One guy even plugged his website in the middle of the art submission.

Free advertising, whether Data Design Interactive liked it or not!

And in the end, this is all we'll likely ever see of the proposed Ninjabread Man sequel, titled Ninjabread Man: Blades of Fury.  All I can say is thank God, because if the sketch below is any indication, it might have ended up being the bastard child of Candyland and Saints Row.

Coktel?  Liquorice Lounge?  Was Ninjabread Man going to fight alcoholism in the sequel?