With a title that sounds like a classic samurai epic from Akira Kurosawa, Ninja Rain comes bursting on to the app scene for iOS and Android. Neat little time-passing game that it is, you might conjure up images of sword fights and flying shurikens. However, as it turns out, ninjas are wimps. Their secret is out. I think back to my trip to Japan in 2012. We experienced a good few rainstorms, and now that I think about it, I never once saw a ninja out in one. It was raining all day in Kyoto, the most ninja-esque of ninja hangouts, and none appeared. Have you ever seen a ninja in the rain? Think about it. I bet you haven’t. Because, as it turns out,ninjas don’t like rain at all. If they’re hit by even one single drop, as well as getting them wet, it has the unfortunate side-effect of cutting their bodies in half. Who knew?
So, the premise of Ninja Rain is effectively eccentric and gruesome. It had my interest from the get-go, and pays off on its unique idea with engaging gameplay. The controls are graspable in seconds. You tap your device’s screen at the place you want the black-cloaked ninja to move. He kind of teleports to that point, then it’s rinse and repeat until you get clocked by a drop of rain and the game ends. Your score is counted by time; each second equals a point. At first it seems difficult to last more than twenty seconds, but as you slowly get used to the timing and controls, the game becomes surprisingly addictive. It demands great powers of concentration to succeed in this most treacherous of arenas. The longer you survive, the thicker and faster the rain comes. I found the best method was to stick close to the sides of the screen; if you’re clever about it, you can kind of obscure the ninja so that only half of his body is vulnerable, allowing you to rack up good scores while keeping your blood pressure even.
The game’s look is somewhat obviously influenced by Japan. Pretty temples rear up in the background, with two colour palettes to choose from: moody blue or dawn-light orange. The only soundtrack is the rain, reminding you of the life and death stakes for your ninjaprotagonist. With such a horrible fate awaiting him (for no matter how good you are, you will lose eventually), you are quickly invested in his plight, giving the game a surprising empathy. I really enjoyed this addictive little number and can recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of Japan, ninjas, or scared of rain. If, like me, you tick all those boxes, this is a game you shouldn’t go without.