House of Dead Ninjas, apart from being an action arcade game by Adult Swim and Megadev, is not actually about a house packed full of dead ninjas, which is kind of a relief, because that would be pretty boring and also smelly. Instead, it's about a tower full of death, and some ninjas that can't leave well enough alone. Your job is to descend in a tower from landing on the roof, and fight/jump/run your way past masses of angry enemies who would like nothing better than to splatter you all over the randomly generated floors like so much jelly. Why? Well, because apparently a long time ago, a lone ninja made it all the way to the bottom of the tower and found a magnificent treasure there. And everyone knows if there's anything ninjas like more than murder and clinging to walls like voyeuristic spiders, it's treasure!
Controls are fairly simple; run and jump with the [arrow] keys, hitting [up] again in midair to double jump, and [Z], [X], and [C] control your sword, shurikens, and bombs respectively. The latter two are only available in limited quantities, so be conservative and keep your eyes out for extras scattered throughout the place. The goal is to get all the way from the top to the bottom without dying, since death boots you back to the beginning. And you will die. Messily. You have five lives for each attempt, and a single hit is enough to do you in, though you'll pop back to life where you stand, and your timer and items will reset. As if that weren't bad enough, you're also racing the clock; a timer counts down as you run, starting at a measly thirty seconds, so you'll have to nab clocks like a particularly stabby White Rabbit to replenish your time whenever possible if you don't want to lose another life when it runs out.
Playing House of Dead Ninja is appealingly simple; just keeping going downwards, and try not to die. Along the way, you'll find treasure for bonuses, trapped fairies, and an increasingly varied assortment of enemies waiting to put the hurt on you. But as simple as it seems, there's actually a bit of strategy to be had, and rushing along blindly is the best way to get yourself a painful demise. Learn how best to use your arsenal; you can grab shurikens you've already thrown at an enemy before they vanish if you're quick, bombs can be used to blast open certain areas of the floor and walls to get at treasure or other power ups, and you'll even find a secret warp zone if you've been a good little ninja all year long.
Analysis: I guess I just have to accept it. I love hard platformers. There's something in the back of my brain that wakes up squealing with monkey-like glee whenever I'm confronted with a challenge like the one presented here. House of Dead Ninjas is difficult, sure, but it wouldn't be half as fun if it wasn't such a snap to pick up and play. The randomly generated layout keeps you on your toes, the constant changes of scenery and enemies keeps the tower from feeling tedious, the timer is hardly ever an issue, and, if you're into that sort of thing, the retro presentation really is flawless. Make sure you check out the manual from beginning to end; not only does it explain things you might not pick up on gameplay, but it really does look and read like something that would have come with a cartridge back in my day. T
Of course, the downside is that the farther you progress, the more you start to resent that increasingly severe looking boot back to the top of the tower. Games with this style of difficulty have their audience, but they have an exceptionally hard time winning over newcomers. Because the layout and item drops are randomised, it feels like half of the game can potentially come down to luck over skill; there were times were I could go 75+ floors without seeing an extra life, while one run netted me a total of nine lives within the first thirty floors. While it would have ruined the old-school arcade machine vibe the game is going for, there were still times when I would have given any number of other people's first born children for some sort of checkpoint or upgrade system that would grant permanent extra lives. Or maybe a bazooka. I bet ninjas had bazookas. Don't you dare ruin this for me, internet.
In spite of that, I still kept wanting to play. In fact, when I'm done writing this, I'm going to go play some more. There's something wonderfully addictive about the whole experience, and if you take your time and don't move too quickly, which is what leads to stupid deaths, you'll get a lot farther. Part Tower of Greed with a sprinkling of Spelunky and Kung Fu Hustle, House of Dead Ninjas is a crazy, run-y, hack-y slash-y, throwback to yesteryear complete with one nostalgia inducing set of sound effects. For the most part, it's a breezy, fun but challenging little game with a very responsive set of controls and a . How many floors are there? Uh... a lot. Like, a lot a lot. But if you're a bad enough ninja, I'm sure you can rescue the presidentIMEAN, uh, get to the bottom of it all. After all, how hard can it be?