Version tested: Wii
Oh look, it's another compilation of mini-games for the Wii. Well knock me down with a lead feather, where do they get their ideas from, is it perhaps a cardboard box labelled REALLY OBVIOUS IDEAS FOR WII SOFTWARE containing a single piece of paper which reads WHY NOT DO A MINI-GAME COMPILATION.
This time it's EA that's raided the box. Then it plunged an arm into the tombola marked MINI-GAME COMPILATION THEMES, avoided the bits of paper marked 'Olympics' and 'Pisspoor funfair games no one likes the real-life versions of anyway' and plucked out 'Ninjas'.
So here we have Ninja Reflex, a game pretending to help you develop your reflexes but actually designed to help EA develop some more money. You can tell this because there are only six mini-games on the disc, and yet they've stuck a label that says "29.99" on the box. That's five pounds per mini-game, and not a one of them is worth the asking price.
They're not terrible, just mediocre. The best one is probably Hashi, where you must use the Wii remote as a pair of chopsticks to catch flies. You know, like Ralph Macchio. And that game on the Internet. The one that costs five pounds less than five pounds.
Then there's Shuriken: aim the reticule at images of enemies as they pop up, lock on with B and chuck a ninja star by flicking the remote forwards. It's sort of entertaining for a couple of goes, although the flicking doesn't make much sense as you're not actually aiming with your wrist. Why not just make it a light-gun-style game? And allow you to kill real ninjas? Like all those free games on the Internet?
Next up is Koi, where you control a disembodied hand hovering over a pond. As fishies swim past you must track their movement without startling them, then press the buttons to snatch them from the water when they surface. There's something rather pretty and relaxing about the whole thing, but as with the other mini-games, there's nothing addictive about it.
Hotaru is the simplest of the lot. It's night time in the garden of the dojo, and your task is to catch fireflies as soon as they appear. There's no need to aim, just press the A button when you see the light. Hardly the most complex of mechanics, and hardly the kind of challenge likely to engage you for hours at a time, or indeed minutes.
On to Katana, which is where things start to go wrong. You have to fend off enemies by flicking the remote in different directions "in the same manner as you would use a sword", according to the manual. In practice, you're just positioning it up, down, left or right; try performing actual sword swishing manoeuvres and you'll find the results are hit and miss.
And finally there's Nunchaku. It doesn't make use of the Wii nunchuk controller; you just use the remote to trace a figure-of-eight pattern then flick at the right moment to hit the projectiles coming your way. The controls are more responsive than in Katana, and watching watermelons explode when you whack them is satisfying, but it's an easy game to master and the novelty wears off quickly.
Which could be said of the whole thing. There are different coloured belts to win in single-player mode and earning them unlocks new iterations of the mini-games, but really this just means harder versions. It doesn't take long to get all the belts but chances are you'll be bored before your work is even halfway done.
You could always have a go at the multiplayer mode, which supports up to four players. Only half the games (Shuriken, Hashi, Hotaru) allow players to compete simultaneously; the others involve waiting around while each player takes their turn. Not much fun.
At least the presentation isn't bad. There are plenty of cliches here but the visuals are bright, clean and pretty, bringing to mind the likes of I-Ninja and Mulan. The music is nice and jangly and there's a fun ninja name selection system. Plus there's a bonus meditation mode where the old man talks you through some relaxing breathing exercises. If you like that sort of thing.
None of that is enough to justify the GBP 29.99 price tag and nor are any of the mini-games. Even if you knock the price down by a fiver, as most Internet shops seem to be doing, Ninja Reflex is a rip-off. The games are neither entertaining nor plentiful enough to keep you playing for long. That applies to the multiplayer as well as solo mode. Consider also the fact that at no point do any ninjas flip out and cut off heads without even thinking about it, and you've got plenty of good reasons to give Ninja Reflex a miss.
4 / 10