Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Super House of Dead Ninjas (PC)

Super House of Dead Ninjas title screen
It's been months since I've had a 'super' game on the site, but this one definitely has a name worth waiting for. 'Super House of Dead Ninjas', it's like they made it especially for me. Plus it's got nice pixels, catchy music; hey this one might actually be good.

Look at me, I'm getting my hopes up already, like that's going to end well. Especially as this was a game request... from a friend. So chances are good the intent was to make me suffer.

There's some interesting options on that menu; you don't see map editors around too often these days. I think I should probably 'read the comic' first though.

Yep, that's definitely a comic alright. Better art than I expected though; it looks really nice.

The comic takes the place of an actual intro and explains that the protagonist, Nintai Ryoko, the Crimson Ninja, has journeyed to the ZIGGURAT OF INFINUM in search of ANSWERS. Or maybe it's spelt 'Infinium', I'm getting conflicting info on that. Either way it's that tower on the right of the title screen that looks like 2 mile high black sword and it's swarming with monsters and evil ninjas, so she is forced to use ancient Z and X key techniques to carve a swath through.

I've played so many recent indie PC games that started out basically begging me to use a controller, so it's weird to find one more concerned with telling me the keyboard controls. Though I suppose that's a side effect of this originally being a free browser game. I imagine gamepad support was added in later when it got a Steam release.

Super House of Dead Ninjas loading screen blast processing box art
Oh damn look at that, SNES style box art (sealed in cellophane) on the loading screen... but it's also using blast processing like a Sega game? I'm so confused!

Here's a fun fact: the average console game in the SNES era was a thousandth of the size, around 1,000,000 bytes big or 1 megabyte (though they probably would have said 8 megabits at the time, so that it sounded more impressive). This on the other hand is lying its ass off, as there's no way the game is a gigabyte big. Not even close, mate. More like 30 mb (or 30 times the size of a SNES game!)

Probably isn't even doing any blast processing either.

Wait, none of those facts were even slightly fun! They were dull and possibly even slightly patronising. Damn, I'm really sorry about that. You know what, I'll just go play the game.

Now that's how you do a tutorial. Press the appropriate buttons on screen to get through the various obstacles and learn as you go. Or press inappropriate buttons if you like, it doesn't care. It's not one of those games that locks you in until you've proven your mastery of the jump key.

Once I reached the bottom of the tutorial section I'd learned enough about the way the game works to know that I could have skipped all these floors by bombing that fragile wall at the top left and sliding down the gap along the side instead. A whole 12 seconds of my day, wasted!

"YOU IDIOT" yells the game's disembodied commentator, as I explode into low-res red mist. Can't argue with that assessment really.

At least now I know not to run into ninjas. Well that was kind of self evident actually, I just messed up the timing on my sword as I ran in for the kill. Turns out I can't just wave the thing around by hammering the attack button and expect the enemies in my path to explode. Though these blue guys do only take the one hit if I get it right.

I on the other hand can take several hits it seems, as I immediately recovered from my wound and carried on where I left off.


FOUR DUMB MISTAKES LATER.


Super House of Dead Ninjas Continue screen
Only two continues? Seems a little harsh. Even Castlevania on the NES gave me infinite of them. Though Castlevania didn't give me an animation where I climb back onto my little pointy feet and claw a cultist's face open with Wolverine wrist blades, so I guess neither game is perfect.

Incidentally, using a continue restarted me right back in the same place as well. I'd mention that it seems a little pointless to have lives and continues that both seem to basically do the same thing, but right now I'm just grateful I don't have to replay the last 50 floors.

It's a basic looking game, but my little ninja has a whole lot of skills and weapons at her disposal. I've got my standard sword attack, shurikens, bombs, and magic, and each has their uses. For instance, bombs are good for blowing up spikes and for dropping down holes. I don't know why I'm blowing up spikes when I have a perfectly good double jump skill (+100 bonus points for having a double jump skill), but I guess I'm being cautious. Which is always the smart thing to do when I have only 26 seconds left to finish the entire game... except no it isn't, what am I doing?

Well okay, it's not quite that bad, as there are time reset pickups scattered everywhere. You know, I'm always the first person to whine about there being a time limit in a game, as I HATE them with a burning passion. They totally wreck my concentration and make me do dumb reckless things. But in this case it hasn't actually been an issue for me, weirdly. The time pickups come fast and frequent as long as I don't deliberately hang around in one place for too long.

Here you go pal, have some shurikens. I've found that generally anything that takes less than a grenade at point blank range to kill will go down in two hits, and unlike the sword I can hammer the shuriken button and expect the enemies in my path to explode. Though I do then have to go over and pick them all back up again.

+50 bonus points for letting me pick the shurikens back up.


29 FLOORS LATER.


Well it turns out that floor 250 has a boss fight on it. Can't say I didn't see it coming, but I can't say I was looking forward to it either. Still, at least I didn't let the bastard kill me. I threw over a whole bunch of bombs at him as he bounced overhead and ended up blowing myself up instead. No continue this time though unfortunately as I'd wasted them all along the way.

Shame really, as I was so close to finding out what the bonus letters spell out when you get them all. 'Here Am I?' Perhaps?

Annoyingly I can't just restart at the boss fight, instead I have to do those 100 floors all over again from the start. Sure it only took me about 3 seconds per floor to get this far down the first time around, and I did kind of enjoy it, but... nah, it's no good. I just can't complain about this.

The game played fair, I fucked up, and I want another try. I am going to get to floor 1 before I turn this off.

Hey wait a minute, this swinging ball on a chain wasn't here the first time I came down this way. In fact none of this was here, and I don't even know how to get through this small passage. Every time I try to crawl or slide through I get a spiky ball in my face for my trouble.

You know, I think these levels are randomly generated each time, so there's no way to practice the path and memorise it. It's all about learning how to deal with the individual threats rather than the level as a whole, and for me that is awesome. It's a game, not a memory test! A lighting fast platformer with tight controls and a ton of combat options without ever feeling complicated, and even when I suck at it I get to play a new level next time!

Don't worry, there's still plenty of time for it to piss me off.

Here's something new: I killed a group of enemies in quick succession and got RAAAGE MODE!!! This seems to have turned me into an INVINCIBLE KILLING MACHINE, assuming the comic is a reliable source. Oh no wait, it's worn off. Gotta constantly continue killing to keep the rage mode going, and I'm just not that fast. Not yet anyway.

Still it's always nice to have another reason to recklessly throw myself into groups of enemies without a second's hesitation. I am an impatient man.

Another failure sent me back to the tower menu, so I checked out the 'visit lodge' option and look, more toys! I thought I might get upgrades, but I wasn't expecting to unlock entirely new weapons. Now I can swap my sword for some speedy short range nunchucks, or a slower long range whip, though I have to pick carefully as I'll be stuck with my choice for the whole next run.

Alright then, to floor 1 then. Again.


TIME PASSES, NINJAS DIE.


Well I finally defeated the Spite boss and look, I can start a new game from floor 250 now! Also look at the pixel artwork on those doors; that's some awesome retro lighting. It's like it's 1989 in here.

To be honest, my biggest concerns with the game up to this point have been that I'd have to do the whole 350 floor run in one go to win and that the bosses would be a total pain in the arse, and neither of those seem to be true, so I'm seriously running out of things to complain about here.

Whoa, this enemy's corpse just turned into a spiky trap! Defeated enemies aren't supposed to be dangerous, that's like one of the fundamental rules of video games!

Well hey, now I know. Plus to be honest I can't think of a way they could have communicated the danger any better to me, considering that huge obvious spikes shot out of it. No bad game design here, I'm just dumb.

I only have a single hit left now so it'd be cool if I could tone down my ineptitude a little as I kind of need to hold onto my continues to get me through the next boss fight. Huh, I have 6 max hit points now instead of 5? Wow, I must have unlocked an upgrade.


22 FLOORS LATER.


Okay that's kinda bullshit maybe. They put a big shiny boss stomping around in the middle of the level, but then killed me with near indestructible fire breathing statues that sprung up out of nowhere instead! Cruel misdirection.

Let's see if he saw this coming! Have some ninja magic, motherfucker!

Well I only got two shots out of it and it only took off a third of his health, so not quite the 'I win' button I was hoping it'd be.

Then another statue springs up and all my hopes of defeating him go up in smoke. Worth another shot though I reckon. Back to floor 250!


100 FLOORS LATER.


Hey what the fuck man? You're not the boss I fought here last time! Even the bloody bosses are random in this!

This guy's like the standard 'charge into a wall and get stuck' style boss, except for the charging into a wall and getting stuck bit. Sure his weak point's in his ass and he likes to run back and forth, but there's no delay on him when he turns around, so I've got to get behind him really fast to get a hit in. Seems reasonable enough, except that I struggle to double jump high enough to clear his head as I jump over, so I keep taking damage. The game's too well designed for this though, so there must be something I'm missing here...

Charge jump! I can jump extra high by crouching for a couple of seconds first! Man, I feel like I should start writing these skills down so I can remember all the shit I can do.


ONE FAILED BOSS FIGHT LATER.


Awesome, I've unlocked more crap! Like a slightly bluer ninja outfit, and a music player to let me listen through the soundtrack.

Wait no, that's the actual soundtrack. I've actually unlocked a download of actual mp3s to my actual hard drive to play in my music player. That's... wow, I have never seen a game do that before. Sure some let you unlock or even download music, but it's always strictly for in-game consumption.

The game gets 1000 bonus points for giving me a real reward that I can actually make use of outside the game.

You know, this game reminds me of one of those joke pictures where someone shows what a SNES game would be like if it was made today, and it's filled with unlocks, achievements, downloadable content and other bullshit. I mean it literally gives you a permanent health increase for dying a lot. Except in this case it turns out that all of that actually a good thing.

I got tired of achieving things, so I decided to check out the level editor instead. There you go: Super Mario Bros. level 1-1. It's a perfect duplicate, except for only being one screen across and not having any items blocks, pipes, goombas or anything.

The editor seems pretty user friendly I guess. It's mouse driven, there's level tiles in the left box, enemies in the right box, and some standard paint, fill, select, copy and paste tools. Then you get to share your levels on the internet!

Unless you're playing the free version on the Adult Swim website that is. If you're not playing through Steam you get no user levels and no map editor.


LATER.


Oh shit, I think I just had an epiphany. Took me until floor 101 to figure it out, but Nintai's down attack is incredibly powerful and kills most enemies in one hit if I connect with them on landing... so why am I wasting time hitting enemies with my sword, when a well timed down attack will let me Mario jump all over them!

Actually now that I think about it, that was mentioned in the comic too. So much useful info in that thing, all presented in several solid pages full of info, meaning I was almost guaranteed to forget most of it by the point it became useful. Oh well.


23 FLOORS LATER.


I actually did it, I finally reached floor 1! Well, floor 0. And it's guarded by a real asshole! Apparently this guy used to be a heroic ninja, who made his way to the bottom of the tower in search of treasure long ago and was corrupted by the infinite darkness he found here (funny how often that happens in games).

Hang on, you don't suppose this one armed fallen ninja could be... the hero of House of Dead Ninjas?

Yep, Super House of Dead Ninjas is actually a sequel, and the white ninja in the first game definitely looks a whole lot like the boss I'm fighting now. Though he probably isn't.

Incidentally House of Dead Ninjas is a whole lot like the game I'm playing now too, except it's missing a few features. Like upgrades, new weapons and continues. Every run in this begins at floor 1 and they increase in number as you go down so it has a different feel to it. More like 'how far can you go?' than 'can you reach the last floor?'

It's still worth a look though for definite. Same tight controls and fun gameplay, just a little more basic. And it's a retro game, so basic can be good.


THEN I ACTUALLY BEAT THE ONE ARMED NINJA AND THIS HAPPENED.


Super House of Dead Ninjas Abarghus boss fight
Well... fuck.

The horrific demon Abarghus I presume? Well I'd give up now, but I'm sure this will be over soon enough anyway.

Oh look he's thrown up lava all over the entire floor. Or maybe it's just stomach acid, who knows. Either way this was even more of a one sided fight than I thought it'd be. I mean, how do I fight back against a floor full of acid, seriously? I'd have to fight through 150 more floors and kill the ninja boss again to even try a different an approach.

So I think I'll turn this off here. I reached the bottom floor, I killed the one armed ninja, that makes me the winner. And it only took me four hours! I don't need to kill the actual last boss to prove my skills, especially because I doubt I even could. Though the game does continue after this into basement levels and I haven't even unlocked half the unlockables.


Super House of Dead Ninjas kind of felt like playing a SNES game with rose tinted glasses on to me. It looks exactly how you'd want it to, sounds great, the controls are tight, the gameplay is slick and I really enjoyed playing it. I even enjoyed failing repeatedly and having to replay hundreds of floors, because I wasn't really replaying anything; they were all new. The regular difficulty isn't really anywhere near something like Super Meat Boy's level I reckon, though hard mode's a different story as it takes away all your continues.

Despite the apparently ultra-tight time limit, I only ever ran out of time once and that was just to see what would happen (the grim reaper appears and chases you, and if he catches up you lose... a hit point.). Actually making your way around the level is pretty much effortless once you get used to double jumping over spikes and the enemies are only really an issue because you have to survive 100 floors of them in one run, with health pickups few and far between. You usually take them on a few at a time so you're never really overwhelmed and driven to exhaustion dealing with an endless onslaught. It's pretty chilled out really for a game that constantly pressures you to keep moving.

You know, I complain a lot on the site about games being too challenging for me, not giving me enough credits, having unfair boss fights, having harsh time limits, not giving me a check point before the boss fights etc. (I complain a lot) but the thing is, the reason those issues frustrate me so much is because they make me replay chunks of a game I wasn't enjoying much to begin with. It drives me to despair!

In this on the other hand, I'm grinning ear to ear as I gleefully fuck up time and time again. If I lose, big deal; I get to play a new set of floors and the gameplay is straightforward enough for me to understand what I did wrong last time and what I can do about it on the next run.

Abarghus can fuck off though. For now.

    

Play the slightly less feature packed version of Super House of Dead Ninjas absolutely free on adultswim.com.
Play the original House of Dead Ninjas equally free also on adult swim's site.

Any thoughts about Super House of Dead Ninjas? If you've played yourself it do you agree with my in depth assessment of its charms, or do you think it's a shitty little browser game? Your opinions are, as always, most welcome.

4 comments:

  1. That does look like a fun game. And the pixelwork on that final boss is gorgeous!

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  2. Hey Ray, thanks for introducing me to this amazing game! I just bought it and its every bit as awesome as you described it! :)

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    Replies
    1. I love a happy ending like this. It's so much better than when people come back yelling at me for steering them wrong and wasting their cash.

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