What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this is a reflex training game composed of various ninja-themed exercises designed to quicken a player's response time to onscreen stimuli. The atmosphere is one of self-improvement; a gentle-voiced sensei repeatedly preaches the importance harmony between body, mind, and spirit. Most of the training is refreshingly benign, involving activities such as catching flies with chopsticks or fish with a bare hand. The only real violence is seen in an exercise that has players blocking the attacks of oncoming warriors with a sword, then jabbing back at them, but even this is meant to be viewed as nothing more than a simulation; there is no blood, gore, or killing.
What's it about?
The latest in a long line of themed mini-game collections to hit Nintendo's DS and Wii game machines, NINJA REFLEX aims to help players improve their physical reflexes through a series of short, repetitive exercises. It features six categories of Japanese ninja training that range from the Karate Kid inspired Hashi, in which players attempt to catch flies with chopsticks, to Shuriken, which involves tossing stars at wooden boards. Once players complete enough exercises, a belt test composed of three random exercises becomes available. If players pass the test, they earn new variations on games within the six exercise categories, and the overall difficulty increases.
Is it any good?
While the exercises are designed put players' physical dexterity to the test, they can also be surprisingly relaxing. Hotaru, for example, requires players to tap the screen (or press the remote's A-button, if you are playing the Wii version) as quickly as possible whenever a firefly appears on screen. To score well, games like these require players to enter a relaxed state similar to what athletes refer to as "the zone," in which the rest of the world disappears and one's attention is focused solely and calmly on the task before him or her. Indeed, it is during exercises like Hotaru that Ninja Reflex is at its best, successfully guiding players into the calming union of body, mind, and spirit that our gentle-voiced sensei preaches throughout the game. The soothing atmosphere is further enhanced by the game's artistic design. Events take place within the confines of traditional, lovingly rendered Japanese settings, such as bamboo forests, dojos, and castle courtyards. It's not uncommon to see flowers falling from the sky or dragonflies darting across the screen. Players can even take part in guided meditation within one of these environments.
Sadly, it all ends too soon. Enthusiastic players will zip through all of mini-game variations in just a couple of days, and the lackluster multiplayer mode, which simply lets players take turns training, doesn't add much. The short length might have been acceptable had the game been released at a reduced cost, but paying the price of a regular game for such a quick play doesn't make much sense. Ninja Reflex is worth checking out, but your best bet is to simply rent it for a few nights or wait for it to hit the bargain bins.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about physical reflexes. Discuss what they are and try to think of everyday situations in which they may prove important (playing sports, driving a car, etc.). You can also talk about the connection between body and mind, and the importance of maintaining the health of both. The game's meditation exercise could be a group activity for the family, allowing everyone to quietly relax and reflect.