Endless runners aren’t the world’s most exciting genre by default, but they’ve been a staple of the mobile gaming landscape for years. Some have made their way outside of the mobile landscape like Wales Interactive’s Infinity Runner, but didn’t make much of a splash; Natume’s latest entry in their Ninja series won’t be making a huge impact, either.
If you’ve played Temple Run, Rayman Jungle Run, Run Sackboy! Run, Sonic Dash, or any of the other millions of endless runners out there, then you know the concept: the game propels you forward automatically, and you run as far as possible while dodging obstacles and gathering pickups. Ninja Strike: Dangerous Dash is the same: you control a ninja as you run along a course jumping, gliding, and slashing enemies while collecting coins. There are multiple characters to unlock, and each character has their own set of powers to level up with coins gathered during runs, but considering most of the characters play identically, it’s hard to feel the incentive to get access to all of them. It’s possible that the game is shooting for a younger demographic, which might explain the lack of complexity/diversity in character mechanics, but just because a game is for kids doesn’t mean it needs to be simple.
Dangerous Dash doesn’t feel particularly dangerous because it feels more like a stroll than a dash. The entire run moves at the same snail-like pace as you jump over enemies and gather treasure, and the pace doesn’t even accelerate after you’ve been successful for a while. After building up energy from defeating enemies, you can warp into an alternate dimension and slash at “living walls” for bonus currency, but that’s about all she wrote. Difficulty increases somewhat by making the obstacles more complicated: a large stream of enemies that you have to jump on the heads of, small platforms you have to precisely jump to make it to, and the like. But even in most of those cases, a well-timed jump lets you use your glider to sail over everything. This might not be a big deal for those who feel like Temple Run was too much pressure, but I ended up feeling like I was being punished with success when my runs went too long; I wasn’t compelled to keep going since the rewards were minimal.
Like most casual games today, Dangerous Dash included daily challenges which give you bonus currency every time you clear them. They’re cumulative distance goals, starting pretty low and then ranging all the way up to 5K in a day. It’s not so much that the daily max is hard to achieve, it’s just…trying. Even aside from the slow pace, the action itself doesn’t feel dynamic or exciting; you can unlock a sword and power it up to slash through 3-4 enemies with a single button press, but the enemies just lazily fall over as if a gust of wind were too much for them and they needed a nap. When you collide with an enemy and die, you fall over in a similar fashion. The sound effects don’t really add much punch to the experience, either, though I’ll say that there are a couple catchy tunes on the soundtrack that are fun to listen to.
Overall, Ninja Strike: Dangerous Dash is a good game for those a little too young or uncoordinated for the mainstream infinite runner. Natsume’s got a special place in my heart with games like Harvest Moon, but this game feels about as exciting as farming.