Yasai Ninja is a hack-and-slash game set in feudal Japan, where the two controllable characters are vegetables. You heard it correctly: an onion seeking revenge from his former sensei, and a hungry broccoli. No matter how many different ways you say it, it doesn't get any less weird. That's okay, right? A game with such a whimsical premise is bound to be heaps of fun. Unfortunately not.
To start with the positive(ish), the art style of the game, while perhaps a little outdated, isn't terrible and is arguably its only redeeming feature. Ultimately, it's not enough to save Yasai Ninja from itself.
You can either play the game's relatively short campaign in single player or local co-op, but both are as painful as each other.
Y'see, this game is plagued with problems. Each problem on its own would render the game intolerable, but when you marry them all together, you're left with is a game that feels like torture to slog through.
The first of the game's myriad mistakes are the appalling game mechanics. Right at the start of the release, you're given a brief tutorial: press square to slash, it says. But it seems to have missed out the word 'eventually' at the end. Combat is difficult to navigate as a result, and it leaves a few frustrating moments when you're supposed to time hits and block enemies with precision that just isn't available in the game. Defeating enemies is a pretty calculated chore as a result. In the first level, for example, it's three hits to take an enemy down with no deviation on this until you get to the boss.
If you can get past these glaring errors (and if you can, you deserve all of the awards), then Yasai Ninja still has plenty of other issues for you to get to grips with. There's nothing within the game to reward you for persevering with it, for example. Meanwhile, going to explore the environment doesn't get you anywhere as you can't interact with the backgrounds or sets, and this will only serve to annoy you as you have to drag your character back to the path of the game. And with the heavy controls it really does feel like dragging.
Level design is also a big issue. There's nothing between interactions with enemies to entertain, and stages are more of a 'get to point A to do action B' exercise rather than offering anything new or exciting. This only serves to make the game seem dated, and comparable to a bad movie tie-in title from the early 90s.
Yasai Ninja is synonymous with frustration. As soon as you think that you've found a workaround to one problem, a new one is introduced. Hit-and-miss combat accepted? Then it's time for you to struggle with jumping with the same precision. Yes, Yasai Ninja can't even make an action as simple as jumping straightforward. Within minutes of playing the game, you'll be transported back to your childhood; back to the days when your hand-eye coordination levels were low, and dying in games was commonplace. Whereas good games make you feel nostalgic in a positive way, this one makes you hate yourself and will have you cursing at your mistakes and gripping your controller in frustration.
For those among you feeling mean enough to subject a friend to the torturous local co-op, you'll see something really special as Yasai Ninja fails to cope with the demand of two active players. In one of our co-op playthroughs, the second player's camera angle glitched, rendering them useless in combat as the camera pointed upwards, unable to be corrected; in another, the sound looped while the second character was unlocking a door, creating an unbearable soundtrack of keys jangling. Friendships will be tested to their limits, make no mistake.
Think of the most frustrating gaming moments you had as a child. Add them all together, and you still probably can't even come close to Yasai Ninja. This is a game to be avoided at all costs. With no redeeming factors, and a whole catalogue of problems, Yasai Ninja is more painful to play than forcing down sprouts at Christmas, with about as much reward. A good ninja shouldn't be seen or heard, and the same can be said about this game.