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Virgin Games Ltd
Arcade: Gang beat-em-up
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

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Jonathan Davies
Chris Bourne

There was a time when the copywriters who did the bumf for games were humorless people with bland expressions and similarly bland writing styles. Now we have to cope with quips such as "Foo, what a scorcher", "Goody Two-Shurikens" and other similar abominations. There's even one long word in here with Shinobi that I don't actually know - ignominiously. Luckily though, as long as you memorise and then dispose of the instructions, this isn't a bad conversion of the Sega original at all.

On the surface, Shinobi is a remarkably run-of-the mill scrolling beat- em-up in that it scrolls and you can beat people up. It also contains the usual abundance of add-on weapons, variably armed opponents and what have you. The twist this time is that you have to rescue a group of trainee ninjas who have been captured by the evil Bwah Foo (no, really!) and distributed evenly across five levels each split into three or four stages. This is done by walking into each of them in turn, whereupon they are beamed back to Mummy and Daddy". Hmm.

And as such games go, Shinobi is pretty darned reasonable. There's not much in the way of kicks and punches to be had, so instead you get to throw shurikens at people. In return you'll find yourself on the receiving end of boomerangs and peashooters, both of which can be avoided by simply keeping your head down.

The probs (there had to be some) start with the graphics. Although the backgrounds have been carefully designed, with rapid scrolling and a liberal splashing of colour, the sprites look very odd indeed. Everyone seems to have a crippling back complaint which causes them to take on a permanent forward stoop, and when a lot of them are all hobbling round together the resulting mess makes it extremely hard to tell what s going on. The animation is the real let-down however. Two frames per sprite if you're lucky, and none of the leg movements seem to fit in with the rate the characters are moving at. Much hilarity can ensue when Joe Musashi (your bloke) ducks to avoid a missile and then continues to scuttle about in a squatting position.

All the same, some people don't mind that kind of thing and as long as you don't examine it too closely Shinobi could prove quite a worthy investment. I still have my reservations not only with the graphics, but the way they keep churning out these flippin' identical games and then expect me to write a radically different and entertaining review of each one. Sheesh, it's just not on.

Takes the scrolling beat-'em-up theme and does absolutely nothing whatsoever with it. A good conversion though.


Screenshot Text

Three of Bwah's men approach in perfect formation. One these occasions it's often worth abandoning your shurikens and taking the enemy on with you bare knuckles. So it's a pity that you don't get any choice 'cos the game makes your mind up for you!

Ah ha! One of the flock. Unfortunately, Joe hasn't noticed the guy in shorts behind him who has just let rip with his peashooter. If he's got any sense he'll duck and then chuck a selection from his limitless supply of shurikens.

With an alarming number of mini-ninjas still to be rescued, our hero steps into the path of a boomerang. Marilyn manages to find something to laugh about.