Pocket trap’s Ninjin: Clash of Carrots game is not exactly a diamond buried among the many other indie games that are competing for the spotlight in the Nintendo Switch eShop library. While I can applaud the amount of silliness and sense of humor this game has, I began to see the cracks in the seams as soon as I started to step further into the game itself.
Let’s make things clear right away, Ninjin: Clash of Carrots is not a bad game. However, it has a myriad of problems that keep it from going beyond its promising Beat’em Up formula. It’s a shame, really, because there are a lot of aspects that I enjoyed about this game but I can’t for the life of me call it anything beyond average.
Before I jump the gun even further. Ninjin: Clash of Carrots takes us to a world set in feudal japan. Where Ninjas, Samurai and other types of warriors can be seen left and right. This beat’em up sidescroller is actually a fun experience in certain occasions and in others it only makes me want to throw my Nintendo Switch against a wall in anger.
Before we go further into the “Mr. Ulises is jumping the gun once again” story. Let’s talk about the story of the game itself and the presentation of the game.
Story and Presentation: It’s so hard to be a Ninja.
Ninjin: Clash of Carrots has to have one of the most despicably awful art styles I have ever seen. I kept sharing some of the game’s images around many groups of friends to ask them what they think and they all often told me something along the lines of “That’s supposed to be a rabbit?”
I can’t be too harsh on the game’s art style, though. While there are some awful choices like the one above. I also have seen some style choices that make me like the overall aesthetic of the game. Namely the game’s versions of enemies like the Oni, Kuma Bear, the Shogun and some of the boss characters.
The music of this game is also mixed if you ask me. Some tracks I can actually find myself listening to on loop like the boss battle music itself. However, it almost feels like the game only has 5 tracks and soon any player will find themselves craving for different music after listening to the same battle track for the 8th time in a row.
A lot of people will tell me to give this game a break because it’s an indie game. However, games like Dust: An Elysian Tail, Moonlighter, Flinthook and Filthy Lucre lead me to think otherwise. As indie games have constantly shown that the music can be varied and not repetitious as Ninjin: Clash of Carrots is.
I saved the worst for last, though, the game’s story is just one of the most ridiculously awful stories I’ve seen in a video game. From the opening moments, the Shogun Moe leads the invasion of a village for its Carrot Supplies. The reasoning for this is because Carrots are a currency and Rabbits are eating the empire’s currency. I kid you not, that’s the story we’re going with.
It’s a very average story with characters that are very one-dimensional and only become worse the more you play the game. The character that actually amused me the most was Moe Jr., the Shogun’s son. He is the only character to show some sort of… Character in the entire story. Everyone else pretty much exists to deliver a one-liner or to exploit a random trope.
Speaking of one-liners. This game has a sense of humor and the story doesn’t take itself seriously. As such, this game’s comedy has to be the strongest point. However, it’s very hit and miss to the point of becoming really annoying.
Remember when someone somewhere said something about never having an overuse of humor? Ninjin: Clash of Carrots’ answer to that is to have the jokes being told left and right and seeing what sticks and what doesn’t. This is made abundantly clear by the exaggerated dependence on puns which will make your eyes roll more than once.
Sure, there are moments where I laugh at the comedy like when the game made the presentation of the “Standard” enemy only to be used as a decoy for the actual enemy to appear. However, those moments are very few and far between and they only have me regretting not pushing the Skip button when I had the chance.
I don’t like the fact that the main characters Ninjin and Akai being a rabbit and fox respectively are complete mutes throughout the whole adventure. With a character being forced to be there to “Talk for them”. It’s a very annoying way of storytelling and it only makes me hate the lack of personality these two characters have.
Sure, they are ninjas and supposed to rely on the art of subtlety. But this game is supposed to not have things taken seriously to begin with so I see absolutely no excuse to at least see these characters acknowledge their existence somehow.
There is a point in the story where Moe Jr. attacks the protagonists because of a misunderstanding. Basically, he blames Ninjin for a huge incident that occurred during his crusade and kicks off a stage because of it. Gee, I wonder if anything would’ve been fixed if Ninjin SAID SOMETHING about the fact that he was innocent for what transpired.
There are a lot of moments like this where the player spends most of the time thinking about the many reasons why a plot point doesn’t work or why some of the decisions made by the various characters in the story don’t make any sense at all. As such, it’s a story that will turn off a lot of people and make others cringe.
Overall, the presentation is unremarkable at best and a very awful trainwreck with an identity crisis at worst. I can admire the attempts at humor that Ninjin: Clash of Carrots offer but there are just way too many problems with the story, graphics and music that make me boil.
Sure, there are people who will accept the story’s lack of seriousness and some will even cackle at the humor. More power to them, of course, they obviously can suspend their disbelief enough to not be bothered by these aspects. However, a lot of people who want to have humor with meaning or a story that at least makes sense in terms of its choices will facepalm really hard.
So, the gameplay more than makes up for the faults in the game, right? Well, about that…
Gameplay Mechanics: So Much Potential, Wasted.
Gameplay is by far where Clash of Carrots’ entire experience is built around. This game is divided into several stages spread across 5 different levels with each ending with a boss fight. The way stages themselves are structured is through a sidescrolling beat’em up approach to matters.
Stages consist of several waves of enemies (usually 10) that players need to plow through using a variety of weapons at their disposal. Each stage is guaranteed to introduce a new enemy type or at the very least a gimmick like having invincible bazooka shooters through the entirety of the stage.
A lot of players will find themselves actually having to change their playstyles very constantly and that’s a very admirable quality of this game. There are times where the player simply isn’t prepared enough to tackle the evil forces that await them in the next stage and will have to make a different build in order to continue through their journey.
Speaking of different builds, there is a customization aspect towards Ninjin: Clash of Carrots. Players are able to customize Ninjin and Akai by giving them different weapons that go between Daggers, Spears, Swords, Heavy Swords and other sort of weapons. These weapons can also have elemental attributes to them like Water, Electricity and Fire.
Fire weapons can deal damage overtime after hitting an opponent with them. Electricity weapons can hit enemies that are close to each other, leading to massive amounts of KO’s en masse. Finally, Water weapons have the chance of healing the player per hit.
There are also thrown weapons that range from boomerangs, shurikens, bombs and a whole array of weapons that can take out hordes of enemies or help in defeating huge enemies without much effort.
Up next are the Accessories which can give the main characters a boost on their stats or give them conditional benefits such as getting healed each time an opponent is knocked out. Finally, players can also equip elemental stones which range from Fire, Ice and Shadow. These Stones carry a special attack that needs to be filled by physical attacks with weapons and can be devastating on their own.
This all begins to be thrown under the bus when the player realizes that there are certain item combinations that basically allow them to win the game without much effort. I can’t reveal the combos for obvious reasons but I did find myself very frustrated at the fact that a lot of weapons are undermined by some others.
Also, let’s say this right now. Never EVER pick a heavy weapon when you’re playing solo. Jumping ahead of the review a bit, this game has the tendency of placing the stakes against the lone player and heavy weapons will often be a hindrance for the lone player. They are better off using Daggers or Swords because Heavy Weapons will end up making them see the Game Over screen quite a lot.
Every game of Ninjin: Clash of Carrots is filled with fast-paced combat that is only complimented by the Stamina System that the game uses in order to prevent spam and camping. While players are able to improve it by equipping different items, both throwing and hand-based weapons and dashing will have an impact on the meter.
This basically forces players to learn how to use their weapons effectively while learning from the environment and enemy formations. However, it cannot be a wasted potential without some way of screwing the player over.
First off, there are no defensive options whatsoever. The only way to prevent the player from getting hurt is by dashing and avoiding the attack. It sounds fine on paper but I have lost the count of the times where I avoided an attack only to be hit by another one that just so happened to be occurring at the same time and blind sighted me.
I feel like a game like this would’ve definitely benefitted with an option to block or parry attacks. It would’ve rewarded players for actually learning the attack patterns of their enemies and also allow for runs where the game loves to throw around explosives all over the screen with a small safe haven on the far side of the screen to be more bearable.
Speaking of that, let’s return to the topic I addressed earlier. This game is often built with two players in mind. While I can respect the desires of Pocket Trap, there are players who don’t have their friends around and don’t want to stand around watching a “Seeking player” screensaver for around 2 hours straight.
Don’t get me wrong, this game IS plenty of fun when there is more than one player involved. However, the stages themselves can actually have some level design that works against the lone player. It’s simply unforgivable because the game should allow any sort of player (Alone or Accompanied by a buddy online or offline) to stand the same chance.
There are so many times where the stage’s gimmicks are meant to be tackled by two players and end up being unfairly tough for single players. Special shoutout to Stage 5-1, by the way. Where the screen is filled with attackers on all sides while two bazooka men are constantly shooting beams at the player alone.
A lot of stages are structured like this and force everyone without a partner to either seek one at the late hours in the morning or to try (in vain) to find another player to play with online. This becomes more and more annoying as the game progresses.
There are times where I didn’t feel like I accomplished anything by beating that hard stage where I got everything stacked against me because I was alone. I just felt like giving a sigh of relief that the torture was finally over and in some occasions that I cheated the game in order to succeed. Let’s just say that I hope you like having your combo counter below 20 in the later stages of the game.
Conclusion: The Unfortunate Problems that Drag a Good Game Back.
As much as I don’t want to be rough on the developer team at Pocket Trap. There are way too many problems with Ninjin: Clash of Carrots that don’t make me think it’s actually worth buying in order to get a mixed experience.
The game suffers a lot from poor design choices, poor story development and mixed thoughts on almost everything else. While there is a lot of potential, I feel like it’s wasted entirely and a lot of players will end up becoming bored of it after around 1 or 2 hours of playtime.
It’s a good game until it loses its novelty, which happens pretty quickly to make matters worse. There were a lot of times where I just wanted to close the game and be done with it entirely but I continued trekking on regardless to see if it would pick up and, it didn’t.
I’d love to see future updates on the game where my concerns are addressed and the level design was balanced for a single player rather than a game designed to force the player into getting a partner. A difficulty selection would definitely go a long way in games like this.
However, for now, I’d much rather go play something else.