Eurogamer.net

Flappy Bird dev's latest freebie, Ninja Spinki Challenges!!, is an excellent waste of time

Go ninja, go ninja, go!

Flappy Bird creator Dong Nguyen has released a new free game on iOS and Android. It's called Ninja Spinki Challenges!! and it is excellent.

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This time around it's a collaborative effort between Nguyen's studio .GEARS and the Japanese team behind Green the Planet 2. Like .GEARS's Flappy Bird and Swing Copters before it, Ninja Spinki Challenges!! is comprised of ludicrously hard bite-sized challenges. But unlike those other titles, Ninja Spinki Challenges!! is a collection of not just one tiny little time-waster, but six delectable mini-games.

Bounce, Rolling, and Cannon task players with guiding a ninja in training across a 2D path as they avoid bouncing cats, charging foes, and cannonballs respectively. Jump similarly locks your avatar into a 2D plane, but lets you do a tiny little hop in the direction you're facing to avoid rolling fruit. Shuriken mixes it up a bit by planting the player in a fixed position and having them fling ninja stars at the angle opposite from where you tap. Hit all the targets to proceed. And Rolling removes the 2D plane and lets you move all over the screen to avoid wayward spikes boulders.

Each mini-game includes fives difficulty levels for a total of 30 set challenges. The first round of each game is deceptively easy and the second trial isn't too bad, but by the time you get to round three of each game, where you have to survive for a longer time against increasingly dangerous challenges, it really ramps up. God help you once you get to the fifth stage!

To make things a bit easier, there is a way to gain a single continue during each attempt, but it's not pretty. Since Ninja Spinki Challenges!! is a completely free game, it's financed entirely by ads. As such, the way you continue an unsuccessful attempt it by opting to watch a 30 second ad. You can only do this once per attempt, so it's really only worth bothering with if you fail at the last second and need that final "hail mary" to survive until the countdown timer is complete. It's a nice option, though one wishes there was a way to just pay a couple quid and continue in a painless manner. Of course, you could just "git gud" and not have to bother with continuing at all.

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Aside from the 30 set challenges, Ninja Spinki also includes an Endless Mode version of each game. In these you collect stars as the hazards come increasingly fast and hard. Naturally, there are leaderboards with each title. Given that these games are just as complex as the stupidly addictive Flappy Bird, it's entirely possible to become obsessed with a single game in this collection when played on Endless Mode. The fact that there are six titles here and 30 standalone trials only sweetens the deal.

As for the mini-games themselves, what makes them work so well is that their controls are absolutely on-point. Seemingly every pixel of contact between your thumb and the screen is carried over into your sprightly little avatar. They're quick buggers too, and it's far too easy to overreact to a threat and dash into harm's way. Indeed, being a ninja isn't just about quick reflexes; it's about keeping calm under pressure.

Some games work a little better than others with my least favourite being Jump, a game in which you jump by releasing your thumb from the touchscreen. That doesn't sound so bad, but you hop in the direction you're facing and the slightest unwanted contact with the screen as you let go could send your ninja bounding in the unintended direction. Elsewhere, the specifics of each challenge are randomised, so it's possible to just get an insanely hard (maybe impossible?) setup, but that's rare. A majority of the time that you meet your maker it's clear that it's your own fault.

Nguyen has found success - sometimes too much success - making these deceptively simple obstacle courses and Ninja Spinki Challenges!! is no exception. Just be warned that you'll go into thinking you'll just tinker around for a few minutes, but those minutes add up and before you know it you've sunk hours into these ludicrous challenges. But that's the thing with ninjas: you never see 'em coming.

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