LifeisXbox’s Within the Blade review | Ratalaika’s latest published game takes a lot of inspiration from Shinobi. Developed by Ametist Studio this isn’t your typical Ratalaika game as the quality is much higher than usual and not a fast completion either. At first sight, Within the Blade looks like a standard 2D platformer but the mix between stealth, action and platforming is fresh as a lemon. Within the Blade’s core gameplay is extremely satisfying to play but there’s a small learning curve in the fighting moves and movement. And before I forget to say what I always write when I played a ninja game.. damn, I miss Tenchu!
We played Within the Blade for four hours on Xbox Series X.
What we liked!
- Nicely crafted Japanese pixel-art style and note afraid about some gore | Two things stand out visually, the Japanese setting, or better known as the age of the warriors (feudal) and the dismemberments of enemies. Background slides are uninspiring and maybe even a little dull but I was pleasantly surprised about visuals. This definitely isn’t a cheaply produced game, this is one of the better looking retro 2D platformers from the catalogue of Ratalaika.
- Japanese atmosphere | It looks good with a Japanese setting but the sound and music is really incredible. Authentic music gives the game an atmosphere that is rare to find! They cleverly use the music to give some gameplay moments more adrenaline too. With the use of some metal-music (yes metal…) an intense boss fight becomes even more epic and satisfying.
- Upgrading our little ninja and crafting | Between stages you go back to your masters village and you’ll be able to learn something new from a large skill tree or craft new items to use. You can craft items from things you collect by defeating enemies or opening treasure chests and it is enormous, over 200 things can be crafted. You don’t necessarily have to do all of this, so if you dislike crafting systems there is no need to worry. It is completely optional, but it will make your life a lot easier.
- Tense fights against bosses | This is the case with every other game in this genre but the best moments from within the Blade are fights against bosses. Impressive tense battles that require your full attention and skill, that’s why I previously mentioned that this isn’t the typical Ratalaika 1000 Gamerscore title. You’ll really need to be skilled to beat some of the fights, learning attack patterns and relying on your reflexes. In other words prepare to be slain a few times but that feeling when you finally nail it is priceless and one of the reasons why you’ll love this game.
- Not everything is explained | You have a tutorial that explains some of the basic platforming things, you know… jumping around or attacking an enemy. But some abilities are simply never mentioned and you’ll have to find them out by yourself. A good example is a Scorpion ‘Get Over Here’ move, this is an ability that you can unlock early on but they fail to mention how you pull this off. There’s a lot of these, I don’t think it would have been that hard to explain things better or give a proper tutorial for every advanced move.
What we disliked
- Wall running and performing a jump remains difficult | Jumping directly into a wall run and jumping again remains something dificult, regularly my jump didn’t want to work while I was wall running. Result? Damage as my poor ninja dropped into a spike trap. Or even worse, instant game over. This could have been done a little bit user-friendly. The blame is on me too but sometimes I feel that my button-press just doesn’t seem to register, which was annoying.
How long to beat the story | 4 hours
How long to achieve 1000G | 5 hours
Similar with | Shinobi
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