Cut above the average
The Last Ninja is a story of jealousy, power, and revenge - of good versus evil and one man's struggle against overwhelming odds. Oh yes, I almost forgot, it is easily the best martial arts-cum-adventure game on the market.
For many years, the evil Shoguri had envied the closely guarded skills and secrets of the Ninja. Executing a dastardly plot he slaughtered the Ninja community on its once-a-decade visit to the sacred island of Lin Fen.
Unbeknown to the Shogun a solitary Ninja - Armakuni - had been left behind to guard the shrine, feed the cat and perform other such tasks. Now he has sworn to avenge the deaths of his comrades and re-build the Ninja empire.
You play Armakuni as he begins his assault on the island of Lin Fen. There are six separate locations on the island and you must kill every guard and collect all available objects on each level before advancing to the next.
Control is achieved using the keyboard only - this may sound restrictive for amartial arts game, but it works well in practice. In addition to the direction keys there are also three separatejump buttons - each providing increasing distance As if to demonstrate his supreme athleticism, Armakuni insists upon performing a forward somersault when prompted to jump.
Level one is set in the wilderness, a barren wasteland of rocks, bushes and a thoughtfully provided path for you to walk on, but it is patrolled by the Shogun's warriors. Inexperienced in the way of the Ninja, they do not yet possess your skills, but they are still capable of giving you a good thumping ifyou become careless.
Initially unarmed, you must pummel your opponents using only fists and feet. Things become a little easier as you go round the first corner and find an abandoned sword - the first of five weapons available on level one. By pressing the spacebar you can quickly switch between any of the weapons currently in your possession. The instructions advise you to use the same weapon as your opponent, but I found the sword to be effective against most adversaries.
Unlike many games, you are not restricted to travelling in one direction, but are free to wander where you wish within the confines of the location. Another very welcome feature is the way that the guards stay dead once you have dealt with them - there is nothing worse than returning to a location and having to fight the same guard that you killed five minutes earlier.
Once you have mastered the human opponents, why not try your hand with the flaming dragon that guards the exit to level two?
The Last Ninja is quite a departure from programmer Peter Scott's traditional style - the prolific author of countless cute platform games has really come up with the goods this time Ninja is fast, furious and totally addictive.