On Sunday, Gung-Ho Online Entertainment held the second open beta for their upcoming free-to-play multiplayer game, Ninjala. With just under a month to go until Ninjala's full release, Nintendo Switch owners were given the opportunity to see what the title will have to offer players, and reception seems to be fairly strong, thus far. I had the opportunity to spend some time with the title, and it certainly seems like it could be the system's next big multiplayer experience. At the very least, fans of Nintendo's third-person shooter Splatoon will definitely want to keep an eye on the game.
In Ninjala, players are given a number of customization options to create their own character. After making their selections, groups of eight players are shuffled off to one of the game's stages. Two were available during the beta: WNA Academy, and Eagle City. Players are awarded points for completing various tasks, but the surest path to victory comes through scoring Ippons. Essentially, a player scores an Ippon by trapping another player in bubblegum and then landing a K.O. Players score slightly less points for getting a regular K.O., and they can also get points for finding coins strewn throughout each stage, or for taking out drones. Defeating drones also allows players to accumulate S-Energy, which can be used to temporarily upgrade the player's weapon.
Unfortunately, finding enemies can be a bit of a hassle. Ninjala lacks any kind of an on-screen map, so players must search throughout the stages the old-fashioned way to find their opponents. While the problem was less noticeable on the WNA Academy stage, it felt much more frustrating on Eagle City. I often found myself scrambling to find other opponents as the timer ticked down.
Ninjala's art style bears lot of resemblance to Splatoon. Squids and ink have been swapped for ninjas and bubblegum, but it has an aesthetic that will immediately feel familiar to Splatoon fans. Players can also travel by diving into the ground (which even looks like swimming in ink in Splatoon), and the Eagle City stage's grind rails also felt similar. Fortunately, these similarities never detracted from the experience, and Ninjala has a unique enough style that it never felt like a rip-off.
While the Splatoon inspiration isn't hard to find, it also felt like the game owed a bit to a different Nintendo game, as well: Mario Party. After each match, players are ranked based on the number of points they've accumulated. However, those ranks can change at the end of the game, based on various accomplishments. Players are awarded bonus points for taking out the most drones, or scoring the most Ippons. As a result, a player can easily jump up a rank or two. It immediately felt reminiscent of the Coin Star, Happening Star, and Game Star from the Mario Party franchise, and it seems like a great way to make the game even more competitive.
Time will tell if Ninjala can manage to reach the same heights of franchises like Splatoon or Mario Party. Still, if the beta is anything to go by, the title is off to a very promising start, and players looking for a charming, all-ages online game will want to watch out for Ninjala's full release. It will be interesting to see how the game is monetized, but Nintendo Switch owners won't have much longer to wait to find out. Ninjala is set to release on June 24th.
Are you looking forward to Ninjala? Did you have an opportunity to take part in the game's open beta? Let us know in the comments or share your thoughts directly on Twitter at @Marcdachamp to talk all things gaming!