Each sub-game in the category follows the same basic theme, but throws in new wrinkles. For instance, you might start out only having to catch so many carp to succeed, but after a while you’re expected to catch only specific fish, grab them quickly while they move from one edge of the area to another, or pluck the fish from the water without scaring any. Similarly, you may be asked to shuriken every warrior in sight, or you may be told to spike three of a kind or avoid harming innocent bystanders. Whatever you’re doing, clear onscreen instructions always cue you in beforehand.
It’s all done with a certain amount of charm and atmosphere. Ninja Reflex is a game for kids big and small and it knows it, packing in enough pseudo-Confucian nonsense from your sensei to give you that authentic martial-arts movie feel, and even throwing in a slightly bizarre meditation mode for those times when you need to get your Chi back on track after a frustrating run of failures. From the moment you start a game, picking your name from a random duo of martial arts clichés – with more unlocked as you play – you’re right there in the Ninja zone. It’s also one of the best looking Wii mini-game collections around, your tests taking place in quite lovely temple locations and hosted by your nicely-animated sensei. With good music and decent if repetitive dialogue on top, Ninja Reflex doesn’t look, sound or feel like another half-assed Wii mini-game compilation.
However – as is so often the case – it’s one that’s let down by a worrying lack of variety and an even more worrying lack of content. When it all comes down to it you are only getting six basic disciplines and a handful of variations on each, and it won’t be long before you’re pushing your way through the belts. To their credit, the developers obviously realised this, but their solution seems to have been to seriously ramp up the difficulty once you’re just beyond the halfway point to the extent that you hit some pretty nasty brick walls. Climb them you will, but you’ll feel disappointed that they couldn’t have provided more game types or more real variations instead. Worse, the controls aren’t always on your side. Nearly all Wii mini-game efforts suffer from this to some extent, and Ninja Reflex is actually quite good in this respect, but there’s no doubt that the tougher the game gets the more you’ll struggle with precision – or the lack of. The katana is probably the biggest single issue. It doesn’t always read your blocks properly, especially at speed, and this can be fatal when you have several oni attacking and only seconds in which to put them down.