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Ninja Town is a pared down strategy game with real time and turn based elements. Like Lock's Quest DS, this results is a focused experienced that is accessible to a wider audience - particularly those without the free time required for full strategy games such as Command and Conquer.
Strategy games provide experiences that require quick thinking, and forward planning from the gamer. They combine the unfolding tactics of classic games like chess, with more recent board games such as Risk. Usually focusing on a theatre of war context, players enjoy the tactical overview of the battle these games provide.
Ninja Town picks up the popular desktop tower defence approach to combat strategy. Here, you first construct your defences (houses) and place your units (ninjas) before being attacked by waves of enemies. There is then opportunity to repair and upgrade your buildings between waves.
This provides a strategy game without the frantic real time pressure, but also without loosing the sense of occasion of the battlefield. It sits between turn based strategy games like Advance Wars 2: Dual Strike DS and Viva Pinata: Pocket Critters DS.
Ninja Town is unique because of its inclusion of additional battlefield interactions that make use of the DS's touch screen and microphone. As the battle unfolds players can specify where their Ninja's appear, as well as draw on a range of special attacks. Blowing into the microphone, for example, to wipe away a wave of attackers is a nice touch.
The single player game is based around a series of levels that are worked through in order. Once complete players are graded and given the opportunity to go back and improve.
Whilst Lock's Quest DS is an obvious game for comparison (it's also the desktop tower defence style), the experiences are quite different. Ninja Town is much more fun and cartoony and offers a greater variety of ways to affect the unfolding battle. Lock's Quest is a more substantial production, but its plethora of buildings and units does make it more complex to play.
Players will be drawn to Ninja Town because of its ability to communicate a simple premise - build defences to survive the attackers. Its cartoony visuals and clear presentation mirror Advance Wars' ability to give the player a real sense of control over proceedings.
Setting out a winning pattern of Ninja houses, upgrading and planning the positioning is great fun. Follow that with a steady stream of enemy Ninjas all dealt with one by one as you tweak your gather points and pull out special moves and the game becomes an coherent whole.
These quasi turn based strategy games, by their nature, aim to make the excitement of real time battle action available to those without the time to spend playing a mega battlefield experience. Each Ninja Town level takes around five minutes and can be fit in as time allows. Where longer sessions are required a number of levels can be strung together - or indeed a single level perfect to easily extend the experience to an hour or so.
Very young games will be able to use the pictorial menus and tap around with their ninja's - but will be ill equipped to appreciate the finer tactical points that make this game so appealing.
Intermediates and those a little older will enjoy the game's simple concept. Within minutes they will be setting out their first town ready for attack. The use of the DS's two screens and Mic fits the game well, and certainly lowers the barrier to entry.
Expert players are likely to be familiar with the desktop tower defence game format from elsewhere. They should appreciate the gameplay innovations here that make Ninja Town a unique experience. Players who look to perfect their performance, and enjoy replaying a variety of similar approaches to a basic concept will get the most from this game.
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