Nikujin & Hakaiman Review

I’m going to lump two reviews in together today, those being Nikujin and Hakaiman, which are both by Ikiki and which have both been recently featured by Derek on TIGSource. And where TIGSource goes, I am sure to follow.

So, we’ll start with Nikujin which is a platform game featuring naked ninjas and which at first, I fucking loathed. This is a game with a steep learning curve which reminds me of Ninja Gaiden on the Xbox, in that it appears to be actively hostile towards people who have the gall to actually want to play it. The very idea!

In fact such is its disdain for the player that, although I can’t read the Japanese on its webpage I wouldn’t be surprised if it simply said something bad”.

Nikujin & Hakaiman

This is the top of level 1. The graphics don’t get much more exciting than this.

And so I wrote the game off. Until Sven Ruthner (AKA. Ptoing) started bleating on about how it was ace and how I was just crap at it. And in part, he was right, because it’s really very rewarding if you can get past some hideously idiosyncratic controls.

My main problem with the game is that your character’s feet appear to be made of some kind of magic glue as the mere act of walking into a wall makes you stick to it and then disconnect automatically a split second later. Fine, this makes sense because it allows wall jumping, but it feels plain odd that it occurs at ground level as well. It’d be far more bearable for me if it only occurred after a jump, preferably only after you pass the apex of it. And while I know that this sticking and disconnecting allows for faster running and longer jumps in some sections, I’d have preferred double-tapping a direction for faster running, despite the fact that it would have broken a few puzzles.

The other thing about sticking to walls which annoys me is that you can only do it for a short period. Well, actually, I don’t mind that at all, I just mind it when the game then allows you to stick to ceilings for as long as you damn-well like. It’s hardly consistent.

Nikujin & Hakaiman

This is only level 4 or 5, but I have got to level 7. Honest. Okay, I’ll prove it: it’s brown.

Another annoyance is that when you attack, not only do you automatically move forwards with each press of the button, but it stops you from turning around to correct your mistake until the animation completes. This means if you slightly overshoot when landing on a shuriken luzzing enemy – which is very easy to do – then you’ll probably find a couple of throwing stars embedded in the back of your head before you can turn around and do anything about it. As annoyances go, it’s on a par with hiccups which not only won’t stop, but that also cause you to do tiny plop-plops.

Even with these huge quibbles, I found myself addicted for a solid hour and so I begrudgingly admit that Nikujin is well worth downloading. It’s just a pity that these problems exist, because had they been ironed out then Nikujin could have been one of the definitive Ninja’ing platform games, and easily on a par with N.

Also worth downloading, and far less obviously flawed is Hakaiman, which is a top-down shoot ’em up reminiscent of Into The Eagle’s Nest and Captain Fizz. Each single-screen level involves one or two objectives, such as shooting all the enemies or escorting some prisoners to safety.

Tbh, there’s not a lot to say about the game other than that as it’s hardly the deepest experience ever. The enemies are mostly thick, bumbling about and shooting at you if they can see you but the real reason the game is satisfying is that it has just the right level of visceral content. Shooting people is genuinely satisfying, grenades explode with a decent thump, dead bodies with snapped necks litter the floor and many parts of the level are destructable – often revealing bonus items. You can really buy in to the experience of the game.

Nikujin & Hakaiman

Who the hell is going to clear up this mess?!

The flaws, unsurprisingly, revolve around the game’s controls. The biggest problem is that the same button is used to reload your machinegun as is used to throw grenades (as you can’t throw grenades while you have your machine gun equipped). And although not being able to throw a grenade and shoot a machine gun at the same time is a nod to realism, it’s a really stupid nod to realism. Like making the main character need a shit, right in the middle of a time-critical level.

But what bugs me isn’t that you can’t throw a grenade while you have the machine gun out, it’s the stupid choice of sticking both functions on the same key when they’re completely different actions. I own a keyboard, not a baby’s activity centre; I have more than 3 keys, thanks.

The other oddness is that you’ll automatically pick up ammo which you find in smashed crates but you must press a button to grab it if it’s on a table. Likewise you have to press a button to pick up dropped items like security passes, even if you’re able to walk right over it, when with any ammunition you’d automatically pick it up. Choose a bloody option and stick to it, man!

And on a personal level, I really miss not being able to aim diagonally as it means I can’t ping grenades around corners – but I’ll admit that would make certain sections far too easy.

Nikujin & Hakaiman

The nicest touch in Hakaiman is the game-over screen, because the guards beat the shit out of your dead body. I’d post a video of it, but if they ran it on the news it would probably cause widespread rioting and looting in Spriteland.

There are other small game design faux pas in there as well, such as being able to lose level 2-1 by blowing up the computer without the game sensibly giving you a game over, and instead letting you blunder on, wondering what you should do with that keycard you’ve just picked up.

But again, despite these flaws it’s a fun game. I just get the feeling that whatever genre Ikiki tackles next, I’ll have to endure some bone-headed control choice, like him swapping left and right around because its set in a mysterious mirror universe.