One of the things we've really enjoyed about the fact that indie devs are flocking to the Switch with their re-releases and remasters is that we've gotten the chance to go back and visit a few games that we missed the first time around. We recently got the chance to go back and look properly at Velocity 2X, for example, and Mark of the Ninja Remastered is another case in point. Klei's stealth platformer has been spruced up for its return and has landed in all its 4K glory on PC, PS4, and Xbox One, and as a potentially portable adventure on Nintendo Switch.
So, yeah, we missed Mark of the Ninja the first time around and only got around to playing it long after it was originally released. Upon discovering that this remastered version was in the works, we resolved to remedy the situation because with this game Klei has probably crafted the best stealth-platformer ever made. Now, we realise that's quite a bold claim to make, so let's dive into why we think Mark of the Ninja is so good, even six years after its original appearance on PC and Xbox 360.
Forgetting the action-packed story and stunning cartoon art style, the most immediately striking thing about the game is the way it feels to move around the levels. The controls in Mark of the Ninja are, for want of a better word, sticky. Your little ninja has a really distinctive way of moving that makes him look and feel utterly unique to control. Whether he's tiptoeing around enemies or scaling walls, his low centre of gravity makes every action feel measured and deliberate. That said, when we're not slinking around the place, there's also the option of moving around the space at lightning-fast speed, either using your grapple to zip between platforms in the air or nipping in and out of cover on the ground as patrols search all around.
The soldiers you encounter on your various missions are actually quite dangerous, and if you fail to stick to the stealthy script then you'll find yourself on the receiving end of a hail of bullets. While you're given the tools to deal with or avoid every enemy in front of you, that's easier said than done. It doesn't help that the soldiers can be quite persistent once you've caught their attention, and you're in big trouble if you get cornered by a couple of them. That said, Mark of the Ninja works so brilliantly because of everything that can happen when the shit hits the proverbial fan. Much of the time you can use a bit of quick thinking to get out of a dangerous situation, letting you return to the shadows and find another point of attack.
Your ability to improvise is aided by a steadily growing range of abilities, and there's really pleasing character progression throughout the story as you unlock new skills, each one essential at certain points as you traverse the different environments. These new mechanics - superhuman abilities linked to the ink in the tattoos that adorn your body - are layered on at just the right pace, and as you delve deeper into the adventure and face sterner challenges, these new abilities become part of your repertoire, ready to roll following any mistimed button press or ill-fated dash to safety.
As you progress your tactical options expand thanks to a number of skills that you can unlock, and once again the ramping challenged is pitched to perfection and you're never too underpowered to deal with the situation at hand. You're given the tools to be a bad-ass ninja and then served up a series of increasingly challenging environments built to allow those skills to shine. It's ever so satisfying to pull off an audacious move, but then again failure doesn't always mean a restart and you can often rescue a situation and turn things around even if you do make a mistake.
There's a lot going on at any one time and there are usually options built into the environment, whether that means slipping in via the vents or lowering yourself down from the ceiling. Equally, your options expand a little if you're prepared to get your hands dirty, although you can nearly always sneak past patrols, dodging their line of sight and sticking to the shadows if you prefer a non-lethal approach. Klei's greatest success is probably the ease with which you can assess each situation, and that comes down to the superb visual design. The art style isn't just easy on the eye, it's functional too. Everything feeds into providing you with the information you need to make educated decisions, with light and darkness, depth, and sound all visualised clearly and elegantly.
And that's not mentioning the new-look visuals, which have undergone a bit of a refresh for this release. The original compressed graphics have been re-exported and if you've got the setup for it you can now enjoy them in 4K, which is ideal if you're planning on playing on the big screen. It's also worth noting that, while the game is landing on PlayStation and Switch for the first time, those who own the original on PC and Xbox 360 can update to the Remastered version for a small fee, a nice touch if you've got an Xbox One X and want to see the game played as it was intended. The whole thing, from the in-game graphics to the polished cinematics, looks great, and Klei even touched up the audio for those who enjoy high-definition 5.1 quality sound. In terms of rounding out the package, the Special Edition content for the first game is also included, and there's built-in replayability via the New Game Plus.
Mark of the Ninja Remastered is a welcome return of a classic stealth platformer, and it's great that PS4 and Switch players can join their friends on PC and Xbox in sampling its brutal delights. If there was ever a game that deserved a second lease of life, this is it, and we've once again enjoyed sneaking through its shadows and embarking on this tale of deadly revenge. If you're a fan of stealth games we can't recommend it enough, and platform aficionados would do well to check it out too, as long as they don't mind getting a bit of blood on their hands.