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Atomic Ninjas' non-lethal combat requires skill and speed

A demo of Grip Game's upcoming 2.5D title, Atomic Ninjas, offered a fast-paced exercise in goofy, non-lethal combat.

During a press event in San Francisco, we spent some time with the PlayStation Vita version of the game — a platformer wrapped into arena-based multiplayer combat. Our demo allowed us to play through several different competitive scenarios, including Capture the Flag and Team Deathmatch.

Atomic Ninjas has different ninja classes you can pick from, such as the Old Monk, Masked Ninja, Zombie Ninja or Rogue Ninja. Once we selected a character, we were then able to choose from different perks. These ranged from item upgrades, like packing extra shurikens, to inherent traits like faster sprinting or quicker respawn times.

In battle, we competed and collaborated with three AI ninjas. Matches begin at five minutes and can be increased in five-minute intervals. Capture the Flag presented a pretty standard scenario. We had to race around the game's stage — an area with a fan-like center and off-shooting platforms — to snag the enemy flag and return it to our base while avoiding enemy contact. In Team Deathmatch, we attempted to kill members of the other team as many times as possible before time ran out.

Atomic Ninja's combat is non-lethal. You can't kill foes directly, but instead have to knock them into traps, fire or other hazards. For us, this made each attack less of a trigger reflex and more strategy-based. We accomplished our kills by thinking on our feet — pushing enemies over with shurikens or stealing powers like punching to knock them across the stage. Rockets allowed us to escape by blasting across screen and reaching high places, while the grappling hook enabled us to swing across long distances.

Each ninja differs slightly from others in terms of its looks and abilities, but offers the same enjoyable, bouncy experience. Because ninjas can't be killed directly, we spent a lot of time pinging off walls from impact or scampering away from hazards. Our demo was filled with slapstick charm that made the experience silly and fun.

Atomic Ninjas is currently slated for launch this fall on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita.

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