Even in the busiest of seasons, smaller games deserve some attention. In that spirit, welcome to Month of Coverage Club. Come back each day in November for a full-length impressions piece based on a hidden gem you've probably never heard of.
I like ninjas and I like tycoon games. Endless Loop Studios brilliantly decided to put these two things together in Ninja Tycoon, and I was more than ready to try my hand at being the next Hokage. (Believe it!) I went in with the hopes that there would be something really interesting here. Was Ninja Tycoon able to deliver? Let's find out.
Ninja Tycoon puts you in command of your very own ninja village. It's up to you to recruit ninjas, train them, and send them out into the world. While traveling, they'll engage in various missions well-suited for these warriors of the night. Like any soldier, ninjas need a support infrastructure behind them to keep them supplied with proper training and high-quality weapons.
The game begins with a tutorial that is, unfortunately, completely unskippable. It teaches you how to build buildings, recruit more workers and ninjas, and send them out on missions. Once the tutorial is completed, you continue with the village you've built so far and are free to play through the rest of the first level however you like.
Ninjas can train in four areas: Stealth, Attack, Support, and Agility. This training occurs at training grounds staffed by a pair of workers. I guess somebody has to restock the shuriken every now and again. A ninja gains levels as its trained in each of the four areas. A ninja who has mastered the basics of all four of these disciplines sits at about half of their maximum power. You can further increase their power by specializing them in one of the four skills at a different kind of training area which levels them up a bit more. The missions may require different skill sets, so using a couple of specialized ninjas with the right abilities can arguably be more efficient than a few generalists.
Every few minutes, enemies will raid your village. You start with a pair of watchtowers at the gate and you can build more to supplement your defense later on. Failure to properly defend your buildings results in damage or complete immolation. In those cases, you'll have to invest a lot of resources in repairing them. It's also entirely possible for enemies to break through the gate and end up out of range of your towers, so I made sure to build most of my towers close to the center of the town to prevent this. I also made sure to keep my cheaper buildings at the front and the more expensive ones (like housing) near the rear where they would be less likely to suffer damage.
After you've upgraded the tech tree and completed some quests, you'll be able to move on to the next region. This requires that you permanently send off ninjas with certain specializations through a map interface. Once that finishes, you move on to the second level.
The second level opens up with some upgrades already researched and a couple of (hopefully high-level) ninjas that you've brought along with you. The game plays out much the same: train your ninjas, complete missions, and then conquer the next region. However, a new addition to the interface vexed me terribly.
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A "reinforcements" bar had popped up on the right side of the screen and I didn't quite understand what it was or how it worked until after I lost the game. It fills up towards 300 points (at which point you lose the game). You can reinforce your other village(s) by permanently sending away ninjas you've trained to help them out. The bar then reduces by a number of points equal to the level of the ninja that you sent away. The game effectively shifts into a balancing act of training ninjas, completing missions, and sending them off to reinforce other offscreen towns so you don't lose.
Once you've completed the objectives, the same "conquer the region" scenario plays out. Successive maps require even more ninjas to conquer the next region. Because of that, you'll be spending a good bit more time training up ninjas and running missions to acquire diamonds for high-end tools. The third level plays out much the same, just with everything being a little more challenging.
I had some measure of difficulty with Ninja Tycoon's reinforcement meter. Beyond that, I didn't find anything all that challenging once I got into the groove. It's a fun little casual title, but I completely played through the campaign in just under four hours. A sort of survival mode exists and there's Steam Workshop support, but maybe the game could have done with more. I just can't shake this feeling that the lack of new enemies or special map conditions seems like a missed opportunity to really mix things up. Instead, you get three levels with slightly more challenging gameplay as you move on. It's over in a flash, and the blow only softens by the game's relatively low asking price. I had my fun with Ninja Tycoon; I just wish there was a bit more to it in the end.
TechRaptor covered Ninja Tycoon on PC via Steam with a code provided by the developer.
What do you think of Ninja Tycoon? Are you fine with shorter games in this genre? Do you prefer that they have a ton of content for you to play through? Let us know in the comments below!