You don’t often see side-scrolling stealth games, but that’s a niche Klei’s Mark of the Ninja intends to fill.
My demo opened with my character unarmed, lead through some industrial environments by a kunoichi from his clan. At first I had to stay in the shadows as much as possible, ducking into doorways and behind trees with B when light-carrying guards walked by. Each guard I evaded resulted in a 300 point evasion bonus. The sounds of their footsteps were indicated by little rings at their feet, rings that were mirrored by larger ones that could alert guards to my presence whenever I ran (by holding RT). If they saw me, I’d lose point and need to fight.
Alerting guards without a weapon meant that I had to beat them up before running away, but finding a sword gave me a more permanent option. The enemies wouldn’t be defeated unless I knocked them to ground and impaled them. While the guards were little trouble, fighting enemies directly felt inelegant and the kills (labeled “a peasant’s death) netted me a small amount of points.
Naturally, the direct method wasn’t the recommended one. Instead, hopping into vents and approaching doors to view what’s on the other side to scope out a room was the way to go. Get close enough to an unknowing enemy and press X, and I’d be presented a QTE (just X and a direction in what I played). If I performed the QTE successfully, the kill will be swift and brutal (you can definitely sense of Klei’s game, Shank, in Mark of the Ninja) and worth more points. If I missed the QTE, the enemy would still be defeated, but the kill would be sloppy and I felt inept and was given less points. At one point, I performed a stealth kill from a vent, which gave me a bonus for hiding the guard’s body.
In addition to the sharp justice I doled out with the sword, I also had access to throwing knives. While they didn’t do any damage, they could be used to stun enemies, take out lights (which provided lovely distractions), and even knock down heavy objects to crush enemies below. Holding LT would slow everything down and allow me to mark targets for the knives with Y, so I could put out multiple light sources at once or ring a bell and kill the lights to confuse enemies.
Changing movement up a bit was a grappling hook mapped to RB. While the grapple points were specifically marked, it allowed me to move quickly and more quietly than simply running. I’d make my way from lamppost to lamppost to position myself in the best possible location to perform a stealth kill after triggering a distraction with my throwing knives. It allowed me to stay out of the light as much as possible.
While what I played was little more than a glorified tutorial that had me rescuing my fellow ninja, I had a lot of fun climbing up walls and sneaking through vents to eliminate my enemies. I’d occasionally deliberately run to distract an enemy and lure him one direction before sneaking through a vent and taking him out. There were also ways to look through doors or vents before entering a room so you could plan out your attack.
At the end of the demo, I was presented with a screen displaying my score (here called “Honor”) and showing which guards I killed. For people who play Metal Gear Solid as pacifistic as possible, it looks like it will be possible to beat the game without killing any enemies aside from bosses.
Mark of the Ninja is planned for release on Xbox Live Arcade later this summer.