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Ninjatown: Trees of Doom Review – Spotlight on Venan Entertainment E3
In the exploding realm of mobile gaming – iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad, and any other cell phone-turned-gaming-device – I’m a relative noob. I just purchased my first iPod (2nd gen Touch model, 32GB) a month ago, which replaced my itty-bitty iPod Shuffle screenless model from about four years ago. Now that I’ve jumped headlong into Apple’s pool of apps, games are sparking an interest in my game-oriented cerabellum.
Preparing for E3 2010 meant all sorts of swag offerings, press releases, news bits, and scheduled appointments all flooding my inbox prior to the show. I didn’t really have to be picky, but I did pick through the various items and tried to line up what appealed to me. Damon Caporaso, one of two head honchos here at BSCreview.com and BSCkids.com, requested that I check out Venan Entertainment at the behest of Sandbox Strategies, the PR firm who handles Venan. I was put on a short list of people who would get a code for a FREE copy of Ninjatown: Trees of Doom, an arcade-style game for the iPod, iPhone, and, coming very soon, iPad.
Reviewing Ninjatown: Trees of Doom was a simple task since the game is lightweight, portable, and accessible. In short, it’s easy to pick up, easy to set down, and immensely fun. The game itself is simple in appearance, but offers consistently challenging gameplay the further up the tree you climb. The Trees of Doom are quite literal in the sense that on each side of the screen, there is a tree. You are, of course, the Ninja character, dressed in all black with mad acrobatic skills. Using your thumbs, you guide Ninja up each side of the tree. When an obstacle comes your way, you can’t back down the tree, you must jump to the other side by tapping the opposite side with your other thumb. It’s as simple as that. Hold to climb, tap opposite to jump. Some obstacle sequences require you to jump back and forth rapidly to avoid them, so your timing has to be quick and perfect. Most of the time you can just climb past obstacles on a single side, and so on.
Another neat feature are the tree branches. When Ninja latches onto one, you pull your thumb down on the screen to bend back the branch. Depending on how far you pull your finger, the branch will adjust the relative height Ninja will reach when he or she is flung. By moving your finger/thumb left or right, the arrow will let you know where on the tree trunk Ninja will land. It’s not difficult to learn, but it takes patience and timing to master. Once you let go of the screen, the branch flings Ninja where you directed him/her, and you keep on climbing.
Of course, what would a game like this be without power-ups to help Ninja achieve his/her goal by climbing as high as possible? Ninjatown: Trees of Doom adds a slew of power-ups, including a Mustache (takes Ninja higher up the trees while skipping obstacles), Cape (turns Ninja into a super-powered hero who flies to crazy heights on the trees), Bubblegum (surrounds Ninja in a protective pink bubble that grants him/her a free “hit” on an obstacle), and even additional costumes to change Ninja’s appearance! I was told that more items are on the way, but it doesn’t stop there. Venan Entertainment’s CEO, Brandon Curiel, in the video interview I conducted with him on the E3 show floor (see embedded video below), revealed the new Scribble skin that will be offered to players for FREE! It doesn’t change the functionality of the game, but it’s the small things that developers hand out to players that add up to big value, and free skins are a way to do this while offering a personalized feel. Scribble will be free to download at the App Store soon.
Because this is an arcade-style game, that means that you have a single life with which to climb as high as you can. Your progress in the Classic game mode is measured in height climbed, whereas in Timed mode – a new mode being added to the App Store update for the game…which is free, by the way – you are measured in best time. If you hit obstacles in Classic mode, you “die” and must start all the way over on the ground at the foot of the trees. In Timed mode, obstacles add seconds to your time, reducing your best time overall. Being that Ninjatown: Trees of Doom presents the player with a fun, rapid-fire method of gameplay, it’s easy to pick up and play for a bit to pass the time in an airport, line at the grocery store, or to tune out an annoying relative, and easy to set down if duty calls you away. Pause the game, go back to the Home screen, and later you can pick up right where Ninja left off! Perfectly portable!
Last, but not least, is the built-in ability to post your scores to Twitter and Facebook if you so choose. Want to compete with your friends? Simply upload your best scores and/or times from both Classic and Timed modes, and let Twitter and Facebook be your bragging epicenters! Of course, you need a Twitter and/or Facebook account to do so, plus a wireless or 3G connection to upload.
Overall, my visit with Venan Entertainment was exciting. Space Miner also made a showing, an Asteroids-type space shooter that’s as portable and accessible as Ninjatown: Trees of Doom. Both games fill the void in mobile gaming, and stand out as gems in an app pool generally loaded with shovelware. If you love arcade-style games that go back to the roots of our childhoods, without the limitations of huge arcade machines in corner drug stores, you’ll love the colorful, challenging, and engaging gameplay offered by Ninjatown: Trees of Doom and Space Miner. Check out the video below for a full scoop of what Venan Entertainment is up to, courtesy of Brandon Curiel, CEO.
FINAL REVIEW SCORE (Ninjatown: Trees of Doom): 10.0 – you can’t go wrong with a bug-free, easy-to-control, accessible game that looks as great as it plays, with free add-on content to boot!