Clumsy Ninja
by Motion Graphics
operating system: iOS also available for android & kindle | price: free
size: 96.3 mb | category: Games

BY DAVID GEISLER | It’s a tricky thing; reviewing Clumsy Ninja. So many interesting things going on in the background but I honestly can’t tell if very many interesting things are going on in the foreground. Natural Motion, the company responsible for calculating life like A.I. and physics with the Euphoria engine used in games like Grand Theft Auto IV & V as well as Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, has put together an app (and I think I’m going to call it an ‘app’ rather than a ‘game’) that is charming, sweet, a little addictive and even…at times…microscopically emotional.

The story of this app can go back, at least, to Apple’s September 2012 Keynote where the clumbsiest of ninjas was introduced to an unexpecting audience when demoed on the, at the time, new iPod Touch. [youtube] NaturalMotion had taken their DMS (Dynamic Motion Synthesis) technology, normally used for Digital Stuntmen in films and NPCs in many popular video games, and brought it into the spotlight. Clumsy Ninja is a ‘game’ where players interact with a less than coordinated but playfully wide-eyed Ninja character by way of a freemium styled goal oriented progression system.

I’ve been playing around with Clumsy Ninja for almost a month now. You basically treat this little character much like a virtual pet. The welcomed difference is that you’re not tasked with keeping the little bugger alive. Rather, you’re tasked with improving his abilities in the arts of ninja-ing…sort of. If being a ninja includes, jumping on trampoline’s and getting thrown into basketball hoops.

I’ll admit, I read ahead, before downloading this app, so I was aware that a very large part of “Ninja’s” animation was rendered in real time. They built a skeleton, muscles, even a central nervous system into the character model and he explores the world with toddler-like reflexes when you first start. It appears that he is constantly learning how to move his body with increased grace the more you expose him to obstacles. Even if that obstacle is as simple as grabbing his hand and pulling him across the screen.

A bit like a GTA game, sometimes you can have just as much fun fooling around with the A.I. as you can accomplishing your next task. I have to say, that I felt a little bit of glee, maybe even pride, when after the 20th-odd time that I threw my ninja up onto an awning at a local market…he reached out to grab the edge to stop his fall. It was the first time that I had seen him do something like that. He then let go and still tumbled to the ground, but after another four or five throws, he grabbed the edge…corrected his balance and dropped down landing on his feet. You know, it’s the simple things in life when you’re raising a ninja. Who knows how much of this is an illusion, and how much is really happening in the background. Though I suspect much of it is organic, with the exception of a couple key-framed poses here and there.

There’s something here…something fun, but the real verdict is held in the test of time. These days, my little ninja (who I used in-game money, that I earned, to buy Technophiles themed clothing for…yup) is a great way to kill five minutes in line at the supermarket. I still check in on him here and there, but for me the freemium-level-up-addiction doesn’t keep me coming back. If you love Tiny Tower, you might very much enjoy helping your Ninja be rewarded with new belts and skills. I’d say…it’s free so try it. It’s more exciting than a fish bowl and I can’t wait for this kind of technology to develop into something really interesting.