Tag Archives: Hitman

2017 Game Review Haiku, #62 – Hitman (2016): Prologue

Assassinations
Are easy, just follow prompts
47 knows

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

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The Top 10 Videogames I Didn’t Get to Play in 2016

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2016 is certainly a tough year to summarize. When I really sit and think about it, several things flash before my eyes, many of which I wouldn’t describe as good. I’m not going to name them. They don’t need naming, and I know Hermione Granger once said, “Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself,” but I’m worried. Deeply concerned and cautious, scared for those that are living in true fear. I’ll be okay, but many others won’t. Also, losing David Bowie, Alan Rickman, and Sheri S. Tepper sucked. Still, one area that seemed to shine and press onwards, at least to me, was videogames, and I’ll never turn down the chance to disappear elsewhere for a time being. That said, I still didn’t get to play everything that came out this year, hence the list.

Once again, because I am the biggest fan of this ol’ feature of mine and love reveling in the games I haven’t played, dreaming of the days when I will get to them, here’s a short bullet list of the previous entries for this annual Grinding Down event:

You could even make a game out of those old posts and try to discover, based on what is visible on Grinding Down, which games I’ve finally gotten to and which ones are still lost in the haze that is other games in my collection yelling at me simultaneously for attention.

All right, on with it…

10. The Witness

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Perhaps I should actually finish Braid before I even attempt The Witness, not that the two are, as far as I know, connected in any tangential way. Here’s the rub: I already know how Braid ends, its twist, the reason it is more about the journey and not the destination. I would just need to soldier through the remainder of its puzzles to see it for myself. After that, yeah, I can move on to line and environmental puzzles on a mystical, magical island brimming with color. It sure does look pretty, but I do worry that my brain might not be up to snuff for some of these trickier areas excitedly whispered about when the game was released at the start of the year.

9. Dragon Quest Builders

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I like Minecraft, and I love Dragon Quest. Thus, this fusion of the two, this Dragon Quest Builders, sounds absolutely wonderful. It’s got style and charm, with a fun story to tell that is evidently directly connected to the very first game. Alas, I don’t have a PlayStation 4.

8. Inside

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If Inside follows the same path as the developer’s previous creation Limbo, then it’ll be given out for free, multiple times, on every platform imaginable in just a few years. I can wait.

7. Samorost 3

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Man. I feel bad. Samorost 3 is really something I wanted to play this year, and I even went back and finally played the first Samorost in preparation for a world of weird, quirky things, starring a tiny man in white pajamas. I watched the Giant Bomb Quick Look for the game and was pleased by what I saw…but then never sealed the deal. Not really sure what happened. Hopefully I can rectify this problem early into 2017 as Samorost 3 is probably the best world to escape to if you want to forget what reality is actually like and just want to solve an obscure, mechanical puzzle by clicking on everything.

6. Firewatch

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So far, I’ve not been spoiled for Firewatch, but that’s likely to be undone as I listen to more and more Game of the Year podcasts and read up on many numbered lists. I guess that’s okay. I’m a huge fan of Olly Moss and his art, and when you combine that with adventure-esque gameplay mechanics, jerk teens, the mystery of what’s hidden in nature, and a lot of dialogue from Chris Remo, Jake Rodkin, Olly Moss, and Sean Vanaman (hi, three-fourths Thumbs!)…sigh. Many of us were asking for so long what is Firewatch. Turns out, it’s one of the top 10 games I didn’t play in 2016.

 

5. Doom

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Now technically I did play Doom this year, but only the first level. Several times in a row before determining that yes, this is great fun and something I look forward to playing more of whenever that day arrives. Alas, it didn’t arrive in 2016, but maybe that’s okay. The game isn’t going anywhere, and 2017 seems like a really good year to wallow in the glory kills of cult-like beings and a demonic invasion from Hell. I probably won’t touch the multiplayer, but it seems like the general consensus is that the main campaign is plenty meaty enough to satisfy the trip below.

4. Oxenfree

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Oxenfree seems neat. It’s a supernatural mystery graphic adventure with style and drama-driven teenagers. I bet it’s my thing. Evidently, the game is on sale for about $4.99 right now for the holidays, but my Xbox One, besides deciding to not show my pins anymore, has decided to refuse me access to the store. I click and click and click, all for naught. Fine. Don’t take my money, Microsoft. I’ll go buy a sandwich instead. Sorry, Oxenfree devs.

3. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

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I’m still working on my no kills on the hardest difficulty setting quest for Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and until those Achievements are popped, no future Adam Jensen for me. That said, I’ve heard that Prague is a lot of fun to explore, the sort of introductory hub space one can spend far too long in, like the Hinterlands in Dragon Age: Inquisition. Truthfully, I’m down with that. Let me live in a world and never leave. Even if that world is full of heavily prejudiced people towards humans augmented with artificial upgrades.

2. No Man’s Sky

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As previously mentioned, I don’t have a PlayStation 4. However, I do have a laptop, and this laptop can run some indie games on it, as well as a few bigger games with all the settings turned down low. Such as Red Faction: Armageddon. It’s not ideal, but I make it work. At one point, on Giant Bomb‘s Unprofessional Fridays, they played No Man’s Sky on its lowest settings–resolution, textures, everything–and, to me, it didn’t look terrible. It looked like something I could do to experience one of the biggest launches of the year. However, I never took the bait. I held my breath and listened to those that played the game, hearing both their praises and criticisms. Exploring planets and collecting data on plants and alien life is certainly my jam, and I’m okay with this not actually being more than that. Regardless, I think I’ll wait and see how No Man’s Sky evolves over the next year as the developers update it to match more of what they originally promised.

1. Hitman

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In 2016, I played Hitman: Absolution and rang just about every inch of content from it, getting all the evidence, costumes, and most of the in-level challenges. It wasn’t all that tough. I left one Achievement unpopped, the one for beating it on the professional difficulty. No thanks. I had an okay time with it, but Hitman: Absolution is the exact opposite of IO Interactive’s Hitman (2016). My history of the series has been documented on Grinding Down, but this new entry, which everyone thought was going to be a disaster due to it being served up episodically, seems so wonderfully open that you can truly play however you want. Except using guns. That’s the big difference. For a number of levels in Hitman: Absolution, I hid behind a corner and shot every enemy to death until there were no more people searching for me; that definitely can’t be done in the new game, and that’s a good thing. Hitman is about sneaking around in the open and using the environment to your advantage, with the occasional chokehold or push off a ledge. I hope to play it in 2017, but I am somewhat saddened to have missed out on all the elusive targets along the way,

Well, there it is. And here we are. You may notice some big name, triple A titles missing from the list, such as Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Titanfall 2, and Overwatch. It is true that I also did not play those this year, but the twist is that I had no desire to play them compared to the ones listed above. Twist.

While I have your eyes and ears, what games did you miss out on this year? Share below please. And don’t worry. There’s always 2017 for them, unless of course Drumpf actually decides to play nuclear war with every country ever, and then I guess I’ll just devote my free time to the upcoming Fallout: Old Jersey, to better learn how to survive in a proper wasteland.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #44 – Hitman: Absolution

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Hide Victoria
Hide Agent 47
Until plans go wrong

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

Turn-based trial and error assassinating with Hitman GO

gd early impressions hitman go

The Hitman series and I have not exactly clicked over the years, which is strange, seeing as these are stealth-based games with multiple paths and ways to succeed, with one often using the environment or disguises to get jobs done than simply firing a bullet from a sniper rifle miles away. It’s that whole “this sounds better on paper” thing, seeing as I could barely get through the opening parts of Hitman: Blood Money and walked away from Hitman: Absolution fairly early on, though I’d still like to return to the latter eventually and give it a second shake.

Good news, everyone–Hitman GO rocks! In fact, it’s my favorite Hitman game so far. Yup, this turn-based, puzzle board game version of Agent 47’s stealth assassination missions is basically everything I do like about these games, but with a super strong aesthetic and enough challenge to get me scratching my head, but returning for more after every level. I bought it the other night for $0.10–that’s ten cents for those with eyesight problems–through Microsoft’s online store as part of their weekly sales for Black Friday, though I’m playing it on my laptop and not a tablet/phone as it is probably intended to be experienced. Too bad, so sad.

There’s no story in Hitman GO, and there doesn’t need to be. Instead, each world, represented by a vintage-looking board game box, collects a handful of themed levels together, with the main goal either being to reach the exit unnoticed and alive or kill a specific target, often draped in red attire. There are side objectives as well, such as collecting a briefcase or completing the level in a set number of turns, and those go towards acquiring stars, which will help you unlock future sets of levels. Every character is represented as a tiny figurine, even mimicking the “toppled over” effect of taken chess pieces when knocked down. I liked this in Crimson Shroud, and I like it once again here.

Truly, it’s the board game aesthetic that has me transfixed. Here’s a true fact about me: if you are ever looking for me in a bookstore, you can generally find me at the board games shelf, ogling just about everything, fascinated with all the games and possibilities, saddened over the fact that I don’t have anyone to play these things with. Recently, I gave Machi Koro a good hard look, amazed at the colorful, friendly artwork. If a real, tangible version of Hitman GO existed, I most assuredly would be staring at it for a while, as i do when I play. You can rotate the board around for a better view or to simply admire the small, off-to-the-side details.

I’m currently in the middle of the second world’s levels, which have introduced new, tricky mechanics like hiding in potted plants or using trapdoors to teleport around the screen at the cost of a turn. My biggest struggle right now is with the knife-wielding enemies in teal shirts that turn 180 degrees, as I still don’t grok when it is wise to move towards them. Strangely, it’s when they are already facing you. It’ll take some practice, though I’m sure there are other elements down the road that will be just as hard to figure out.

A negative, sadistic part of me wonders if I’ll hit a wall when I get to the Blood Money-themed levels–yup, I know they are forthcoming–and tasked with tossing coins to distract guards, but we’ll see what those ultimately look like when I cross that path. Until then, may all your puzzles be murder.

The Half-hour Hitbox: March 2014

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Officially, March is the month that sees an end to winter…so why am I still so cold? Fact: I’m literally typing this intro text in front of a tiny space heater. Well, let’s not start deep-diving into things like polar vortexes and the death of the planet, but I’m really looking forward to spring becoming spring. For one, it means I’ll be able to play more console videogames since I won’t immediately crawl under the heated blanket every night after work just to stay warm. Two, well…um, I don’t know. I guess it just ultimately means I’ll have more time to play all them vidyagamez I have in my backlog.

Actually, there’s not too many games for this edition of Half-hour Hitbox. I’ve mostly written about the big games occupying my time this month–like Tomb Raider, Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy, and Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures–and I’ve only dipped my toes into a few other games over the last thirty-one days. This is me attempting to remain focused and dedicated to the task at hand, of beating more games than starting new ones.

Enough babbling, on with the list…

Hitman: Absolution

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Remember all the trouble I had with Hitman: Blood Money? Of course you do. Well, thankfully, Hitman: Absolution plays much more smoothly than its older brother, but I’ve only gotten through the tutorial level so far. Again, there’s a lot of systems to play with here: you can be sneaky, you can be aggressive, you can be both, and you can be creative in all your approaches. I like that; I’ve always liked that. So long as thinking of an idea and implementing it via action buttons is, more of less, easy to do. That’s the ticket. The next stage up is the Chinatown one from all them demo trailers, and I’m eager to see what trouble I can get Agent 47 into next.

Dungeon Defenders

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Well, it finally happened. I played Dungeon Defenders. See, I’ve had a copy on both Steam and PlayStation 3 for a long, long time now. Just sitting there, waiting. Making puppy eyes now and then as I’d skip past it to play something else. And then, this month on the Xbox 360, Gold users get a free copy of the game, meaning I now have three versions of it across all my current platforms. Alas, the game never looked too appealing to me, both visually and from a gameplay perspective, so I never made it a priority, but I figured enough was enough. I needed to know for sure.

Unfortunately, my gut instincts were right–this isn’t a game for me. It’s boring solo, consisting of just you setting up turrets and defenses, clicking start, and running around like a madman to keep on top of every situation. You do this for several waves until you win, and then you move on to a new area that, from what I can tell, while aesthetically different, plays just like everything else. Maybe I’ll try to see if I can join someone’s online game, but if not, I’ll probably end up deleting Dungeon Defenders. FROM ALL MY GAMING DEVICES.

Celestial Mechanica

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In this collaboration from Roger Hicks and Paul Veer (animator of Super Crate Box), Earth was saved by celestial beings known as mechanians from complete destruction. However, since then, these beings haven’t been seen in like a hundred years. Naturally, in Celestial Mechanica, you play as one of these beings, exiled and now booted all the way down to Earth. Your mission is to get back…as well as try to sell some indie game soundtracks.

Basically, we have a Metroidvania action-platformer here, that starts pretty slow. I mean, you can’t even jump at the very beginning. Gameplay involves exploring and solving large environmental puzzles, with checkpoints for deaths almost non-existent, making for frustrating rooms when spikes and lasers are the main adversary. I played for a little bit and got a few powers, but eventually closed the window to do something else. Perhaps I’ll return to this Earth some other time in the future…

Polar Escape

A very short “escape the room” adventure game, wherein you’re stuck somewhere cold–maybe Alaska given I saw a poster for The Thing above the bed–trapped inside a four-walled room. The puzzles are all extremely logical, like using a hose on a tank of gasoline to extract the gas to power the generator, and the only hiccup I ran into was figuring out the secret code that unlocked one of the lockers. Once I got through that, the rest of the items get used one after the other in the most obvious of ways. Wasn’t really expecting much here, but Polar Escape didn’t impress me at all in the end. Also: could use some editing.

2048

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Over the last few days, I’ve read a decent amount about the popular puzzle game Threes. As well as 2048, a clone that is also experiencing popularity. Alas, given my Windows 8 phone, I can’t play Threes, but I was able to download 2048 and see what all the fuss is about. You basically slide tiles around to combine numbers in hopes of reaching a big score and creating a tile with the number 2,048 in it. I’ve not done it yet, but it’s surprisingly addictive and easy to get into. I can only image what Threes is like then, being the original idea. We’ll just call this another good killer of five to ten minutes, something to play while waiting for the teapot water to boil.

Hexic

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When I first got my Xbox 360, I only had two retail games for the longest while–Fable II and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. I’d come home for lunch a lot and want to play, but didn’t have the allotted time for either of those two titles. Then I discovered that the Xbox 360 came with some arcade games pre-installed on it, with one of them being Hexic HD, a title-turning puzzle game that, despite its appearance, was deceptively difficult to master. And now you can play Hexic on your Windows 8 phone…for free. Uh oh. These last few months have shown us the truly nasty side of free-to-play games.

That said, I’m not even through the tutorial yet, so I have no idea if this game gets free-to-pay gross. It might, it might not at all. At this point, it’s just teaching me the basics that I already know while introducing special power-ups and moves to help clear the board faster. This reminds me greatly of what Tetris Blitz did, wherein you have Tetris, but also a handful of probably unnecessary and overpowering special items that, naturally, can be purchased with real money. I do like that there’s a tile with a single eye talking to you, calling you “a human”, and the presentation is quite nice, though some text can be a little small at times.

The Half-hour Hitbox is a new monthly feature for Grinding Down, covering a handful of videogames that I’ve only gotten to play for less than an hour so far. My hopes in doing this is to remind myself that I played a wee bit of these games at one time or another, and I should hop back into them, if I liked that first bite.

Epic fail at tossing coins and strangling dudes in Hitman: Blood Money

I meant to write about Hitman: Blood Money some months ago, but I played it during an extended weekend over the summer where I hurt my lower back real bad and passed the days in somewhat of a fever haze. I mean, heck…I drew this comic during what I might consider my sanest moment. So maybe a part of me doesn’t believe how bad the controls were and frustrating the opening tutorial level was. Maybe I just wasn’t up to snuff with hitting controller buttons well. I’d try again, surely, and with all the talk about the newest Hitman: Absolution game hitting the market…well, I was in the mood for some stealthy kills.

On paper, these Hitman games sound like my kind of experience. They are described as a series of stealth action games, in which players are encouraged to use sneaking, disguises, and trickery instead of raw firepower to take out target assassinations. You control Agent 47, an assassin-for-hire, and take out targets using various methods. So far, all I’ve experienced of the franchise is the opening tutorial level in Blood Money, the hideout right after, and the beginning of the following level. I’m having a real hard time going the stealth route, instead skimping by on raw firepower, which is extremely disappointing and 100% less fun.

The controls are the biggest problem. Now, I’m playing Blood Money on the PlayStation 2. I picked this version up a long time ago for somewhere around $6, which seemed like a fair price. The beginning tutorial level, called “Death of a Showman,” is specifically constructed to show players all the different ways to be stealthy and crafty. Your assassination target is one Joseph Clarence, better known as “Mr. Swing King.” An accident at his amusement park caused the deaths of several children, and one parent seeks vengeance. The level is clearly divided into snippets, each one there to teach you a new trick: distraction, strangling, hiding bodies, wearing disguises, pretending to be someone else, messing with the environment, taking enemies as human shields, sniping, poisoning food and water, making the kill, and setting bombs. That’s…um, a lot of systems. Probably some I’m not even naming, such as using weapons (aiming, firing, reloading, figuring out how to equip/unequip) and hiding in closets. The two biggest hurdles for me are throwing coins and strangling dudes.

For tossing coins, you first have to hold the square button down to bring up the inventory. Yes, I wrote hold. You can then toss a couple of coins on the ground. The tutorial text tells you to do this. And so I do, over and over and over again. But the coins just drop at my feet, when clearly I need to get them out an open window to distract some guards nearby. You’d think the game would tell me how to aim, but no. I try using the R1 button, which is how you aim in first-person mode with a gun, but that does nothing. I try running and throwing the coins to no avail. It’s absolutely ridiculous. Eventually, I go online and learn that you have to hold in L3–which is the analog stick you walk around with–and that brings up an aiming cursor. Let me make sure this is clear: the stick you walk around with is also the stick you aim with. That means walking and aiming happen at the same time. Thankfully, Agent 47 is up against a desk, but otherwise I can’t see this working well one little bit.

Strangling dudes is just as hit or miss. Agent 47 comes pre-packed with some fiber wire. With this, he can sneak up behind someone, throw the wire around their neck, and choke them to death both silently and efficiently. Well, theoretically. I only had this scenario go down flawlessly once, and that’s the part where you’re supposed to do it anyways. Again, to bring the wire out of your inventory, you first have to hold square and then select from the items. To sneak, you hold down L1. However, to sneak with the wire ready to go, you instead hold down R1. Strangely, you can also do both if you love holding buttons down and hate your pointer fingers immensely. Then, to strangle a target, you have to get behind them and release the R1. That’s right. Letting go of a button creates the action, and what’s worse, there is no prompt so it is all guess work. Most of the time Agent 47 would just abruptly stand up behind the target, alerting them and other guards, forcing me to bust out a shotgun and blast my way to the next part.

The newspaper at the end of the level–which I think is a fantastic element–said that 28 people were slaughtered, one of them an innocent bystander. Well, that’s what happens when stealth fails and there’s no turning back. That’s not what I was going for, and without being able to play stealthy successfully, Blood Money is nothing more than a clunky, third-person shoot-em-up. After the tutorial level, you are in your hideout, where you can try other weapons and purchase upgrades for them. I started the next level, called “A Vintage Year,” but fell into the same problems previously mentioned when trying to choke a patrolling guard, thus throwing everything into shambles. Which, ultimately, is a big shame.

And no, you can’t change any of the controls. Trust me, I tried. Looked high and low and even in the middle. The most you can do is go inverted. So yeah: it’s either learn to play this way or go do something else. I think I know what I’ll be doing then.

Smart, smooth stealth action in Mark of the Ninja

As frustrating as they can get, I love stealth-based videogames. It probably all began, to no one’s surprise, with Metal Gear Solid for the PlayStation 1 back in the late 1990s. As Solid Snake, a real grunt of a guy, you had to sneak through a nuclear weapons storage facility on Shadow Moses Island, which has been attacked and overtaken by a group of terrorists known as FOXHOUND. The terrorists have taken two hostages: DARPA Chief Donald Anderson and ArmsTech President Kenneth Baker. For me, gameplay was fundamentally different than anything else I had thus experienced on my PlayStation 1 and SNES before it. Your goal was to avoid detection, as much as possible. And when you did, after much crawling under things, pressing your body against walls, and creeping down the line under a cardboard box, you truly felt like king of the castle.

Other games did this as well. Tenchu, which holds the honor of being the first 3D stealth game, lets you run along rooftops and use a grappling hook to get around enemies. With the use of certain Plasmids, one could totally be a sneaky sneakster in BioShock–though not for all scenarios. And from what I’ve dabbled in with Lone Survivor, hiding from freaky monsters is vital to surviving and up to you to do. Some games though, like Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Hitman: Blood Money (for the Ps2), were more punishing and less fun.

Mark of the Ninja blows them all away–not with its story, mind you, but how it implements and improves upon the many elements that make up a stealth game. Namely, sound. Everything you do makes a sound, from running to landing on the ground, and the volume of that is measured in a blue ring that you can see right on the screen. If a guard is within the blue ring, he will hear you. Simple as that, but the clear and conciseness of it all works marvelously. Stealth kills are quickly successful if a short button prompt press is won. Cones of vision come right off a guard’s face, leaving behind the map as a constant picture-within-picture mandatory check. You can also easily tell when you are visible and not, depending on whether you, the ninja, is colored in or all in black. And lastly, movement. This ninja is fast and silent, and it shows when you move from one side of the screen to the other so fluidly and without detection.

There are 12 levels in Mark of the Ninja and…no, wait. I guess I should mention the reason why you are going through these levels. Again, the story was a letdown, especially since it did eventually build to a great mystery. Alas, a mystery left for you to unravel in your spare time. Anyways, you are a ninja of the Hisomu Clan, awaken by a mysterious female ninja after learning that the clan village was just attacked by an organization called Hessian Services. Your body is covered in crazy tattoos that are twofold: they give you power, and they also might make you crazy and commit suicide. As you learn more about the attack, friends become enemies, and you then begin a quest for truth. It’s all kinds of mediocre, but towards the middle the story does intensify, and the ending, which is a choice-based thing a la Bastion, did make me pause and actually think before picking. Unfortunately, unlike that previously mentioned game, your choice leads to nothing. Just credits. I was hoping for more confirmation in the end, whether the ninja was crazy or not, but I guess it’s not an answer easily said.

Regardless, the levels are a blast. Each is a puzzle itself, in that you can get through them all without being detected, without killing anyone, or doing a bit of both. There are nine upgrade points to be earned in each level: three are findable scrolls, three are score-based, and three are special challenges to do. I’m currently replaying many of them to find everything, and it is still immensely enjoyable. Two nitpicks are that laser puzzles are annoying, and that some areas are really dark, forcing you to up the gamma on your TV screen.

After beating the Mark of the Ninja, you unlock New Game+, but I don’t think it is something I’ll be able to do. Not now, maybe not ever. Firstly, the sound ring is removed, something which I rely on a lot. Enemies are tougher, too, and there’s a third change that I can’t remember, but it’s probably a doozy. Either way, for $15, this is a great game for fans of stealth, with plenty of things to do once the disappointing story is told. Also, some great and creative Achievements, like freaking out a guard to kill another guard or throwing three different items at once or making a stealth kill from inside a box. Really good stuff.