mon 22/07/2024

Ronin | reviews, news & interviews



It looks like a bloody ninja action game, but plays like a puzzle

'Ronin': Red lines are not good

A throat-slitting, daredevil samurai in a motorbike helmet out for bloody vengeance against their enemies, flying through the air. Sounds like an action game, looks like an action game, plays like a puzzler.

Ronin steals liberally from the side-scrolling brilliance of Gunpoint. Similarly to that game, the ninja/samurai/motorbiker hero here must break into semi-lit buildings – jumping through windows, stealing keys to get in through locked doors and always slashing through groups of enemy guards to get to the bosses the samurai is out to bring down.

Like Gunpoint, the hero here can jump in arcing trajectories traced by a mouse movement and click. And similarly clamber up walls and along ceilings to drop on enemies. And again, like Gunpoint, if seen, the enemies will suddenly turn and point a gun in your direction – with red laser tracers showing their aim.

Where Ronin diverges from its inspiration is that the moment you kill, or are spotted, the game switches from realtime to a turn-based approach. You can jump, grapple or kill – choose your move, then it's the enemies' turn. The red laser lines indicate where they'll shoot or jump at you – ending your turn in their line of fire is fatal.

Ronin - puzzle game that riffs off Gunpoint only not as goodSimple goons can be easily knocked down with one blow, then finished in a suitably splattered sword fashion. But armoured samurai need to be stunned, then hit from behind, machine-gun guards can kill if you even cross their path, not just if you end a turn in their path and other enemies are tougher still. Soon, you're wading into rooms littered with enemies and criss-crossed with red lines on each turn.

Hmm, knock the samurai back to stun, then jump into a goon sending him out the window to fall, but now, oh no, another goon protected by a machine-gunner is calling to sound the alarm, got to get to him fast. Quickly the game escalates into a turn-based puzzle of movement, your samurai dancing and dodging the deadly beams tightening around him.

Tense, brain-mangling and enjoyable – Ronin is all of these. But it stumbles under close inspection. The mouse control design is dreadful – meaning too much time is spent getting your character to move where you want them to. And the difficulty setting is too hard, without a get-out.

In order to earn skill points, vital to beat the later levels, you need to clear every level by killing all enemies, leaving all civilians untouched and having no alarms go off. A difficulty setting to let you fail one of those and still get a skill point would have been an easy and welcome modification! Smart, but not quite smart enough puzzle action, then.

  • Ronin out now for PC. Developed by Tomasz Wacławek and published by Devolver Digital

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Simon Munk on Twitter

Rooms littered with enemies and criss-crossed with red lines on each turn


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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