Chopped Onions and Boiled Broccoli

 A Yasai Ninja Review

After deciding I needed a break from my usual games, I gave Yasai Ninja on PS4 a try. It features both a singleplayer and co-op mode where you get to take Veggie Tales-style characters through various puzzles and combat other produce-themed enemies in Feudal Japan, all to regain Kaoru’s honor and defeat the evil feudal lord.

At first glance, the graphics are appealing. They’re cute and comic-like and the character designs themselves are well done and humorous, even if a bit stereotyped. The overall look suits the general tone of the game and had me looking forward to seeing how the rest of it would play out.

You begin the game as Kaoru Tamanegi, a samurai onion that has lost both his honor and master. It isn’t exactly clear as to why you start in jail room, but there you are thinking out loud about how your life has gone down the garburator while standing in front of a prisoner, as if he were a bartender listening to your woes for a tip.

The stranger is the second playable character; Joe Broccoli, who easily convinces Kaoru into freeing him so that they can fight together will help Kaoru regain his honor. It’s not like he has anything left to lose by freeing a prisoner, right?

Before you get too far, you are faced with your first bit of combat. This is where you get to cut up some cucumbers and leave their slices scattered all over the floor, which I’ll admit is pretty cute. The combat is straightforward and no aiming is required other than facing in their direction and being close enough to hit. There are no real complicated button sequences, you just smash your attack buttons and your samurai will sluggishly swings his katana back and forth as if he skipped his morning coffee, or should I say tea? You can also switch to Joe and see if you like how he fights better, but even his fighting style seems a little green.

Of course, this is when I noticed what seemed to be a disconnect between your attacks and the collision effects in the game, the sound and the actions you do weren’t in sync either. There’s also this random “thwick” sound that’s supposed to represent one of your steps that seems out of place and louder than the rest of the effects, making it quite hard to ignore.

Image generously provided by the gorgeous Girltriesgames.

The first ‘major’ puzzle you face is where you need to jump over numerous water obstacles to reach pulleys, which raise platforms in another wide expanse of water so you can reach the other side. Of course, you don’t need to raise all of them to get across if you’re feeling adventurous, but it is your safest bet.

Now prior to this, if you die at any point you are reset and having to start from the very beginning of the game and listen…or well… read (since this is not voice acted) the early dialogue between Joe and Kaoru all over again. It isn’t until after you’ve raised the first platform that you’re only reset to the puzzle when you die, but that puzzle is reset each time. Of course that means that any progress you’ve made is lost and you’ll need to start all over again, which is as appealing as pulling weeds from your grandmother’s garden.

If that wasn’t bad enough, one of your greatest foes in this game seems to be the camera, which will occasionally decide it is best serving you by placing itself on the opposite side of a wall, giving you no view of who you are fighting. It will also follow so closely behind you while  jumping that you lose sight of where you’re trying to jump. Now, Kaoru may be a martial artist, but I’m not, and fighting or jumping blindly is not something I can do, not even a little bit.

Did I mention that falling into water results in instant death? I find this confusing since we’re playing as vegetables which you’d think would like water. Perhaps it’s the lava effect that is beneath the water and we’re being boiled to death very quickly, I’m not really sure, but it happens. This wouldn’t be too frustrating if it weren’t for the fact that the checkpoint system is trying to break your will to live.

If you’re playing this game alone, you’ll quickly discover that the AI is not the brightest bulb. At times you’ll notice that as you’re busy slicing and dicing the enemies, your companion is either vegging out off to the side or being as effective as a sack of potatoes. He’ll occasionally opt not to follow you, particularly when jumping is involved. Meaning that you’ll have to risk a reset all over again as you jump him through the same things you’d just completed.

I like games where I get to switch between characters with all their own unique abilities, but it’s unclear at times what the game wants you to do or why something isn’t working and you’re left running around trying to figure out what your options are. I personally enjoy puzzle games, I’d even say I’m pretty good at them considering that my older brother used to get me to help him solve puzzles all the time when we were little, but….this is ridiculous.

The graphic artists did a great job on character design and I love their imagination, both on the main characters and the enemies. There are a few transparency issues that you’ll find in some areas or objects, but they are easily ignored if you’re not someone that fixates on details as I do. The music fits with the game style and setting as well, unfortunately there are other sound issues that take away from it.

If Reco were willing to go back and fix the issues in the game, such as the checkpoint system, camera, collision effects and sound, I could see this game doing alright and being a lot more fun to play, but at this point it does not feel finished at all.

If you want to try this game and are up for the challenge, by all means, please do. But I’d recommend you wait until it’s on Steam sale rather than pay the full $17 for it in its current state. If you want a cute ninja game to play that does feel more polished, I’d probably direct you to Mini Ninja instead.

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