After a guard accidentally nods off over a big red button that rains nuclear fire down on the Earth's citizens, the world as we know it is destroyed. However, in true comic book fashion, Atomic Ninjas' titular characters aren't obliterated by the blast – instead, they're strengthened, sporting increased agility and near invulnerability. It's a simple but effective setup for a frantic, eccentric brawler that allows up to four ninja combatants to duke it out in seven arenas. With a quartet of super speedy and deadly warriors all clambering for the best tactical positions and the most dangerous weapons, be prepared for some ridiculously chaotic multiplayer carnage.
In many ways, the title plays like a blend of Super Smash Bros. and Worms. Much like in Nintendo's popular fighter, your objective is to beat the nuclear goo out of each other by fighting and flinging your opponents into environmental hazards, while manoeuvring through floating islands that feature brightly coloured, crisp, and simple textures. As such, the release is both charming and familiar, sticking to a tried and tested formula while retaining some originality.
You see, these ninjas aren't so easily defeated. Beating them to a pulp is satisfying, but ultimately pointless. To finish them off for good, you'll need to either force or lure them into the aforementioned traps. Fire, lava, lasers, electricity, and more surround each arena, and with a combination of skilful platforming and combat prowess, you can utilise these dangers to your advantage. If you're lucky, you might even witness your opponents eliminate themselves if they're not paying proper attention. Alongside the environmental death-dealers, launch platforms are similarly dangerous: they can either aid you in navigating the area, or send you flying to your demise. Elsewhere, surfaces move, while opposing ninjas can hide in perfectly sized rock formations, adding a tense stealth element to the gameplay. Needless to say, surviving each battle requires immense concentration.
In fact, Atomic Ninja demands a lot of brain power whether you're fleeing from crazed nuclear assailants or chasing down your prey. Equipment can be picked up to help aid you in traversing the environment, including a rideable rocket that sails through the skies – and explodes in comical fashion if you fly it too far. You can also use a ninja rope to swing around from hooks that dot each stage, or ninja claws, which allow you to stick to surfaces, including the ceiling.
Finally, there are the weapons. Force grip gives you the ability to pick up boxes and then hurl them at your opponents, while classic shurikens and good old fashioned fists allow for ranged and close quarters combat respectively. Whichever suitably hilarious kit you choose to utilise, they're all easy to get the hang of and highly effective in the right hands. Squishing enemies with a block, punching an opponent into a pit of fire, or forcing your foe into a laser with a well timed throwing star are all highly satisfying, and the gameplay is so quick that no matter how much luck was actually involved in your victory, it'll still manage to look skilful.
Atomic Ninjas' blistering pace in conjunction with its great weapons and equipment make for a compelling, adrenaline fuelled brawler. At times, it's genuinely hilarious to watch the mayhem unfold, especially when playing against friends, either online or locally. A standard but well implemented variety of multiplayer modes are on offer in the form of deathmatch, capture the flag, and domination – and before you dive into the fray, additional objectives are displayed that challenge you to complete Ninja Trials in the midst of combat for extra points. It's worth overcoming these challenges, too, as the experience grants you access to additional character skins and super abilities which you can equip to your hero as you level up.
Atomic Ninjas is a humorous and intense brawler, but unfortunately its appeal abates when playing alone with bots. The title is therefore heavily dependent on multiplayer – and the size of its online community. It's crying out for a story campaign, but if you can get a few friends together, then you'll definitely be (ninja) roped in by its ridiculous and highly enjoyable combat.