1-bit Ninja is like a bad sequel to a great movie: You want to love it, but no matter how hard you try, you simply can’t. Not only that, but the screenshots show the best parts of the game– the retro visuals– while the game itself leaves something to be desired.
1-bit Ninja is a run-and-jump game with levels designed for standard platforming. However, you can only run in one direction: forward. If you miss a special coin (referred to as a ‘big bit’) or get stuck underneath a ledge where all you can do is wait for an enemy to drop on your head, there’s no turning back.
You’ll have to restart the level from the beginning, because there are no mid-level checkpoints. This is especially frustrating if you’ve collected all five hard-to-reach big bits, only to die and have to do it all over again.
The ability to look at a level from a 3D perspective by sliding across the top of the screen is a clever gimmick, but due to the two-minute time constraint, you’ll often fail to complete a level if you stop to do this. On the other hand, if you don’t stop regularly to change perspectives, you’ll drop through gaps that you can’t see in 2D. Something has to give: either the unseen gaps or the strict timer.
There are a total of 100 big bits to collect across 20 levels, most of which are located in tricky spots that require you to risk death. Collecting all of them unlocks a stereoscopic 3D mode, which you can view with red/cyan 3D glasses. Most players won’t have the patience to get to this point, and if you do, you’ll have already beaten the entire game. If this feature was unlockable sooner, we think it would be a perfect fit for the multilayered level design and might actually improve gameplay a bit.
Now you see the gap, now you don’t.
On the plus side, 1-bit Ninja’s retro visuals are crisp, especially when viewed from a 3D angle, and we really liked the ability to save replays. There’s no way to share replays or post them to YouTube, but it’s still a fun feature that we wish was used more often. Also, when you start at level 1, the game kicks into Old School Play (OSP) mode, where you can try to beat as many levels as possible before losing all of your lives. It’s a nice way to encourage going for a high score, but there are no online leaderboards. Starting on any other level gives you infinite lives, but your score doesn’t carry between levels.
Some players will have no problem with 1-bit Ninja’s high level of difficulty and one-directional movement. But if you’re anything less than a platforming pro, you’ll want to take caution before buying.