PAX Prime 2012 | Mark of the Ninja and Don’t Starve Leave Great Impressions

Klei Entertainment, the indie studio behind the Shank games, had some new games to show off at PAX. And two of them blew me away.

First up is Mark of the Ninja. This game actually comes out today on XBLA and I implore you to at least check out the demo.

Mark of the Ninja looks beautiful. Klei took the hand drawn cartoon style from Shank and brought it here but added so much to it. Since it is a stealth game, the art reflects this. Parts of the level darken when out of sight only to cleanly pop into view when you peer through a floor vent. The whole thing looks great – as you can see in the trailer below.

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The game play also matches the greatness of the art. In true stealth game fashion, trying to use you sword to fight gun wielding enemies is not very advisable. Sneaking through vents felt easy and great, as did stealth kills and zipping around on the grappling hook (the first of many enhancements to your arsenal). The other item I got to mess around with was throwing darts. When you go to aim them, time stops and you can highlight up to three targets. When you are done, all targets are hit with deadly ninja precision.

All the enemies have line of sight cones so you can see what they are seeing. This helps out a lot but will only work if you can see the enemy. Also playing into the ninja sneaky motif is the presence of sound bubbles that you emanate when you make a sound. If it touches an enemy, they heard you and you better move.

Sneaking through the world showed off the many ways to get to the goal. These are not just buildings made of linear corridors.

All the animations were silky smooth as you’d expect from their past games. The controls felt tight, responsive, and quick; which was perfect to emulate the ninja you play as.

Everything I got to try out in the first level was very fun. You can hide in the shadows, drag and conceal bodies, and much more. Anything you’d think a ninja would be able to do is something you can do in this game. All the mechanics I talked about came together perfectly and this was only the first level.

Remember to check Mark of the Ninja out right now on XBLA.

The other game I really liked was called Don’t Starve. Now this game is still in early beta form (which you can check out here) and is completely different from Mark of the Ninja. With its crafting and exploration, Don’t Starve is more similar to Minecraft.

Don’t Starve starts you off on a random spot of land during the day. There are trees and bushes and other items nearby. So you start running around and gathering what you can.

Through the crafting panel on the side of the screen you can see what it takes to build many different things. I first decided to build an axe because these trees had it coming. After chopping some trees down I noticed that it was getting darker. I was told to build a fire or the monsters would start coming out.

I survived the first night fine but the second night I ran out of materials for a second fire and was left in almost sheer darkness with spider creatures closing in.

And unlike in Minecraft, death is permanent in Don’t Starve.

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True to its title, you have a stomach gauge meaning that you must eat to survive. There will be edible berries located on the land but after they are all picked, they aren’t coming back. This means you‘re going to have to start planting food yourself.

There was no goal in the game at this point but it is still pretty early on and just surviving was a enough of a challenge. Plus, the creative popup book art style was a good distraction.

Don’t Starve will release on the Chrome web store as well as a downloadable but no date has been set. Make sure to check out the free demo here.

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