New Zealand never strikes one as a place where you would find ninjas, but at least one group of developers there lay claim to the title. Ninja Kiwi has been churning out games since 2007, hitting early success with the most obvious of ingredients: balloons, darts and a monkey. The game Bloons was an instant hit, allowing Ninja Kiwi to start carving a legacy into parlour-style games – simple distractions with few controls but plenty of challenge.
These types of games are everywhere and they all want to stand out. Players are fickle and will drop your game, never looking back. Anything that doesn’t try to be at least a bit original doesn’t last long and is assigned a fate worse than death – audience apathy. Good teams stand out because they can always come up with something new..
Still, all it took at the start was a monkey throwing a dart at balloons. This was Bloons the first hit for Ninja Kiwi’s team. Point the monkey in the right direction, pump up the power and hope your reckless popping meets the level quota. Stupid, easy, fun. In no time it became the studio’s mainstay. There are five Bloons games (plus extra level packs), as well as a spin-off tower defence series. It’s an amazing number for a studio – most developers hope they might get enough out of a game to make a sequel. The successful ones tend to nurture a small two to three game series. But eight is pretty unique.
Yet if Ninja Kiwi was a one-franchise operation, they wouldn’t feature here. Expansion and collaborations have led the studio to more elaborate titles. One of the most popular is the top-down shooter SAS: Zombie Assault, where a soldier holds off hordes of incoming zombies. This is already a series, with a third game coming soon. Last Line Of Defence has similar post-apocalyptic leanings, but inclines towards those who prefer to just point and shoot. Manning a machine gun nest, you mow down the undead while spending for better weapons and ammo. Equally violent (and zombie-filled) is Zombie Trailer Park, a management game where you have to make money and employ people to battle the undead horde rumbling towards your trailer park.
Other offerings from this team include the manic â€œhow far can you goâ€ game Mad Karate Man, simple-but-addictive â€œwack the right stuffâ€ Robomaro and the somewhat pedantic explosives/physics series Boombot. There is even a platform experience with a bow-wielding cat in Sinta, a more violent one with an AK-47-wielding girl in Guns n Angel and a fantasy card combat game called Aetheron.
Ninja Kiwi recently joined the ranks of smart phone game developers. As it turns out, monkeys are even more fun with a touch screen. And their ambition with Flash is growing. Just take a look at the trailer for the new SAS: Zombie Assault Game…
Last Updated: May 26, 2011