Title: Ninja Pizza Girl
Developer: Disparity Games
Platform: PC, Mac, Xbox One
Rating: E10+(Everyone 10 and up) – Mild Cartoon Violence, Mild Language
Release Date: September 30, 2015
REVIEW: NINJA PIZZA GIRL
Ninja Pizza Girl is a serious game about self-esteem, bullying and resilience – and pizza delivering ninjas! Its deeply-woven story follows Gemma, a sixteen-year- old girl working as a pizza delivery ninja for her father’s independent Pizzeria. In a world where slums teeter on top of skyscrapers, where powerful mega-corporations exploit the poor and where quality pizza is hard to come by, Gemma must fight to keep her ideals, her family and their business intact in face of the most merciless enemies known to any teenage girl – other teenagers.
Dystopian environments are an old favorite of the video game industry right next to haunted houses and trippy elven forests. It checks off several dystopian standards right off the bat. Overpopulation leading to people living in ridiculously high skyscrapers? Check. Unbearable traffic gridlock making travel by ground near impossible? Check. A corporation with nearly unchecked power? Check. Yet somehow Ninja Pizza Girl manages to put refreshing spin on these tropes. While initially the concept of a ninja pizza delivery person sounds laughable, in the game’s world it sounds not just plausible but actually very likely. I was actually quite impressed with how well the otherwise goofy profession fit into the theme of the game.
Meet Gemma, a sixteen year old pizza delivery ninja. Her father runs a small pizza shop competing against Pizza MeGaCo. While they maintain a small base of local customers, the business still struggles and the family sometimes has to do without. Nonetheless, the family takes great pride in what they do, working together to create and deliver Pizzarific pizza. Her father cooks the pizza. Gemma delivers, and her disabled brother, Tristan, plans the routes and helps with navigation via a comlink. While Tristan seems relatively self-assured, Gemma struggles with self-esteem issues. She yearns to be accepted by her classmates, many of whom work part-time for Pizza MeGaCo as delivery ninjas. The player follows Gemma as she learns to stand up for herself and show kindness to others… and also kick lots of ninja butt.
The gameplay was clean with a UI that was easy to understand and controls that were easy to use. A or ← to go left. D or → to go right. Shift to slide/attack, and Spacebar to jump. I found Shift convenient to use as far as finger-mapping goes, but my computer tabbed me out a couple times to ask about Sticky Keys. Luckily, the level’s timer does pause when you tab out of the game. The Shift issue only applies to keyboard play, obviously. Ninja Pizza Girl can be played with Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, or PlayStation 4 controllers if you would rather use them. I have tested the game myself using an Xbox One controller and a keyboard so that I can compare. The sticky keys problem can be avoided by turning off the shortcut for your computer, but I chose to not do so for one run to see how badly it affected the game. Honestly, it wasn’t too terrible, but I would recommend either disabling the shortcut or switching to a controller, especially if you plan on doing speed runs. This problem could be avoided if there was an option to remap keys, but I did not see one in the menu options.
The game is a mixture of speed and parkour. Imagine if Sonic the Hedgehog and Mirror’s Edge were combined to form a single game and that game would probably closely resemble Ninja Pizza Girl. Sonic was my favorite game for a long time growing up, so I am a huge fan of speed based platformers. The parkour elements are so fluid and so wonderfully done that I was blown away by just how good they looked.
While the story is rather concise with a great message, you can choose to skip through it altogether. There is a bit of story dialogue at the start and end of each level, and it only appears the first time a level is played. So, for example, if you fail a level because… oh, I don’t know, maybe you are a completionist and you wanted to get all of the items from the level during your first run, you would not have to worry about the dialogue playing during your second run. Instead, you could skip straight to the gameplay. There are two main things that you need to focus on to successfully complete a level: speed and Gemma’s self-esteem. If you are too slow, the pizza gets cold and you have to start over. Gemma’s self-esteem affects how fast you go as well as the overall appearance of the game. If you don’t successfully avoid the bullies, they knock Gemma down and her self-esteem takes a hit. If she performs well she is happy and becomes more confident. If she falls or fails a jump she loses a little bit of confidence. Keep Gemma feeling good about herself and you can rocket through levels like a champion.
The level designs are wonderful and reminded me of a cyberpunk version of Sonic’s Star Light Zone. Each one is a maze of different floors, canopies, and pipes allowing for multiple routes to the same end point. The genius of the level design is apparent from the first play through, but cannot really be appreciated until you are traveling through at breakneck speed while in First Person Mode.
The levels are scattered with hidden items that can be used for purchases outside the game. No… not those sort of purchases. Don’t worry. There are two types of items that you pick up. The first is recycling symbols that represent recyclable goods. Gemma can use these to create new outfits for herself which helps boost her mood. The other item you gather appears to be a microchip. These are used to unlock developer interviews, comics, behind the scenes goodies, and new game modes. One of these unlockable modes is First Person Mode, which allows you to replay any level in first person view. This mode is by far the most challenging, even offering up its own achievement for completing even one level.
You can also adjust the difficulty with a custom slider. There are five preset difficulties, but you can unlock the slider and set your own. If you are struggling in a level, the game will even remind you that you can still adjust the difficulty level. On the other hand, if you are just breezing through, the game will suggest that you turn up the difficulty to a higher level. It’s a nice touch that stops those struggling from becoming discouraged, and stops the game from going stale for those having an easier time.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
The soundtrack is awesome. It starts off fairly peaceful, but it changes with Gemma’s mood. When her self-confidence is at its highest, the music speeds up and becomes more like an awesome techno track. The game graphics look great, but it is the comic panels and character portraits that really steal the show. The hand-
drawn designs were created by Raven Stark (tell me that’s not a superhero name!), the teenage daughter of Disparity Games’ heads, Jason and Nicole Stark. Jason and Nicole have years of experience working on AAA titles, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this family become an indie game force over the next few years.
The animations are smooth and the effects are wonderful. I must have replayed the first level at least five times just looking to see if I could find a hiccup in the animation. This wasn’t just because I’m a nitpicking jerk. (Although, I am.) It was because everything seemed so seamless and fluid. I was really surprised to find that quality in an indie title. It’s not that it doesn’t happen in indie games. It’s just a lot rarer which makes me appreciate it all the more.
The entire world is affected by Gemma’s outlook on life. As I mentioned earlier, it is important to keep Gemma’s self-esteem high. As she loses confidence in herself due to bullying or making mistakes, the world through Gemma’s eyes loses its color and starts to look more and more depressing and dystopian. It is such a small effect, but it has more impact than all of the health and mana bars in the world.
Ninja Pizza Girl is hands down my favorite game so far this year. Yes, I realize it’s only January 31 st. Hush. It has a great message of acceptance and believing in yourself, but it doesn’t come off as preachy. Even if story isn’t your thing, the game on its own is great with speed runs to satisfy even the most diehard Sonic fan and elegant, fast-paced parkour. The sound track is great. The setting is great. The story is great. The characters are great. The graphics are great.
The only two issues I was able to find were a) the ending was a tad cliché and b) the shift key is really not a great choice for a standard keybinding when you may be hitting it several times in succession. That being said, the ending was still cute and fit the overall theme, and the button issue really only applies when using a keyboard. The game is lacking the ability to remap keys which is surprising given that they took the time to create custom difficulty levels. That being said, I still highly recommend this game. The speed run leaderboard let you compete with others across Steam. There is a lot of replay value in collecting all the items to unlock new modes, and the First Person Mode changes the game entirely. It is a game for everyone, supplying outstanding gameplay and level design for speed run fanatics, as well as a heart-warming story with great messages that both adults and kids can appreciate. Ninja Pizza Girl is a fantastic title from a family-run indie game company.
Ninja Pizza Girl nets a solid 9.0/10.
Other reviews of Ninja Pizza Girl:
Disparity Games provided us with a Steam review key of Ninja Pizza Girl in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected our final review of the game. For more information regarding our review system and ethics policy, click here.
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