Another week and another retro styled platformer with slick presentation and the promise of something a bit different arrives. Devolver as a publisher and developer have certainly been at the forefront of this indie surge and also normally good value on the promise of bringing games with a retro style but that also add something a bit different to the market. RONIN is no different.
Following the story of a heroine who wears a bikers helmet you are set with the task of taking down five key figures in a corporation. Revenge is high on the agenda as the story (such as it is), slowly unfolds and faces on a photograph are first circled and then crossed out.
The game is heavily influenced by Mark of Ninja and there’s a bit of Gunpoint and N+ in there as well but it has its own key gimmick that sets it apart from almost everything else out there. You start by jumping, climbing and sneaking around but when enemies see you time freezes and the games goes into a turn based mode. It sounds a bit strange but it works excellently.
When in turn based mode you can see where the enemies are going to shoot (or teleport slash with swords), and the idea is to time your jumps and strikes to avoid the maze of red sight lines. If you are hit you die instantly and have to start from the last check point so it requires a perfect run through each section of the game. It takes a while to get used to but once you have worked it out it’s quite unlike anything else.
The system isn’t perfect as there are certain moves like climbing over ledges or simply walking forward a few paces that you can’t do in the turn based sections. Instead you are restricted to leaping, striking and swinging on the grappling hook. This can be frustrating when an enemy is just out of slash range and you have to leap over to them instead of move a few paces but in general it works and holds up well throughout the games more hectic levels.
Completing all the objectives in a level (spare civilians, kill all enemies, don’t trigger alarms), allows the spending of a skill point on extra abilities which you’ll need to have any hope of progressing through the later levels. These skills fall into three categories - throwing your sword, creating decoys and throwing shurikens. If you level up one area completely you can also teleport. Using these skills requires a meter to be filled within the turn based time by knocking over and killing enemies.
There are times while playing that you’ll find yourself repeating sections numerous times as this is one tough nut to crack once you get to the later stages. There are also a few issues with regards to the guide arrow for your jumps and swings. Several times we leapt for a ledge only for the second turn to show we were clearly going to miss it and plummet to our doom. There are a few issues with the stealth elements of the game as well but nothing that’s going to stop the fun.
Negatives aside there’s something about RONIN that kept us hooked from start to finish. It’s got a great style and the music is exceptional. When you get into the flow there’s something almost hypnotic about the turn based slaughter and we always kept pushing through to the next level. It took us about five hours to complete but we’ll be diving back into new game plus very soon.
Overall, RONIN tries something different and just about manages to pull it off. There are a few elements that don’t work quite as well as others but this is a well put together and well-designed game that offers something different to what’s already out there. You’ll need a bit of patience and perseverance but it’s a game that’s well worth getting into and shows real promise from the developer.