For: Xbox 360
From: From Software/Microsoft
ESRB: Mature (blood, violence)
By Billy O'Keefe
"Ninja Blade" has garnered an unsavory reputation for its dependency on quick-time events —those instances in which a game has you complete some amazing stunt by following a series of onscreen button prompts that bear no resemblance whatsoever.
The rap checks out, because "Blade" indeed employs the technique like perhaps no game ever has. Rarely do five minutes pass where you aren't interrupted by some bland recitation of prompts that allow your onscreen likeness to do something significantly more exciting than what you're doing.
To a point, it's understandable: "Blade's" cut-scenes are nonsensically, hilariously over the top, and replicating these excessively choreographed maneuvers is more than today's controllers can handle without cheating.
It would have been nice, though, if these instances carried any consequence at all. There's no discernable penalty for following prompts sloppily instead of perfectly, and if you miss one entirely, the game simply asks you to do it again until the scene plays out. Before long, you'll feel more like a tool of "Blade's" entertainment than the beneficiary — as if the developers designed the game to be enjoyed by non-playing bystanders while you do the work.
Distressingly, the rest of the game — which alternates between "God of War"-like third-person swordplay and a surprisingly high number of on-rails shooting segments — does little to alleviate the oppressive linearity. "Blade's" increasingly incoherent storyline impatiently whisks you from scene to scene, and the vast majority of the action feels like a slog from A to B. As long as you hold down, mash or press buttons like the game asks, you'll inevitably power your way to the end of the level, your brainpower no more taxed by the end than it was when you began.
Almost as if to compensate, "Blade" postpones these inevitabilities though a slew of irritating tactics, including overlong boss fights and cheap attacks that don't challenge or imperil you so much as slow things down for no discernable reason. The tedium ramps up as the story falls apart, and an inability to save your game at mid-mission checkpoints makes for some play sessions that drag on well past their freshness date. If you plan on giving "Blade" a shot, be sure to clear your immediate schedule.
Additionally, make sure you rent rather than buy. In addition to overstaying its welcome the first time through, "Blade" offers no worthwhile reason to reason for seconds, nor does it feature any multiplayer content beyond leaderboard support.
(c) 2009, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.