When you're looking for a simple, compulsive time waster, do you look for something that lets you grind to your heart's content, or a game where you can dominate a high score board with skill alone? This is an honest question. DogByte Games' 8bit Ninja [Free] has a free-to-play model that doesn't get in the way of simple good times, but it pretty much throws the whole leaderboard thing out the window if you don't want to pay. Other than that little problem it's a great way to lose a few hours to that good ol' craving for just one more game.

Consider 8bit Ninja a companion piece to Halfbrick's Fruit Ninja. In that game, you are a bodiless ninja with a sword and a penchant for murdering fruit. In this game, you're a nearly unarmed ninja with a good reason to fear bouncing produce. One's about the thrill of the attack, the other's all about avoidance. They make a great pair, but where Fruit Ninja is a one-and-done sorta game that focuses on hitting peak performance, 8bit Ninja holds its big rewards back for the patient player who puts time into its substantial upgrade system.

If you have a weakness for levelling things up, 8bit Ninja is going to eat you alive. Just playing lets you level up your ninja, improving his special ability and shrinking its cooldown. You also pick up coins while you play, and those can be used to unlock and upgrade a whole list of powerups. You can equip three of those powerups in a given run. Eventually you can unlock new ninjas with better abilities and level them up too. It's the sort of grind that goes straight to your head.

The game is simple: run left and right dodging increasingly aggressive bouncing fruit. Every so often a powerup drops from above. Depending on what you've equipped it might give you a few coins or boost your XP, or it might slice up some fruit. Splattered fruits drop coins and the occasional coveted egg.

As we mentioned in our preview, the IAP system is largely inoffensive if you just want to play. You can get by without ever making a purchase and never know the difference. Coins and eggs can be earned by playing, but eggs are quite rare and are more easily acquired with IAP. Purchasing any egg pack has the side effect of removing ads. So far, so good.

You can use eggs then to unlock new ninjas and scenery. They add small bonuses, but nothing outrageous. You can also use them to level up your ninja faster, or swap them for coins to upgrade your powerups. That's getting a bit dicey from a high score point of view, but you'll earn your way up there eventually. Things get messy with the last option, though. You can use eggs to purchase one extra life each round if you're willing to keep plugging in dollars. That's a pretty big hit to your potential if you don't want to pay up.

Assuming you're cool with that situation, 8bit Ninja is otherwise pretty solid. The only real problem is, as with most linear arcade titles, that the early part of the game gets dull and runs get uncomfortably long as you improve. But the game is extremely accessible and its touch controls are great. Between the thrill of random egg drops and the desire to level up and score higher, it's probably going to get a hold on you.

So ask yourself what you're looking for. If you want serious competition without hitting the IAP, this probably isn't the game for you. If you want an entertaining time waster with cute pixel art, go nuts. Just don't say I didn't warn you when you're desperately hunting eggs in the hope of catching up to the rest of the pack.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • http://twitter.com/VULTR3 Mike

    Tiny Tower mashed with Fruit Ninja. Where are all the whistle-blowers?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Spammo-Twatbury/100002426967566 Spammo Twatbury

      Living in Sensible Town, where people don't make such absurd comparisons. It features fruit and a ninja, and that's the end of the similarities with Fruit Ninja. The only similarity to Tiny Tower is a font.

  • Schutzenegger

    I don't see what the difference is with the IAP here compared to many other games. If you play it much (because you enjoy it) then you'll get the eggs. Get 45 and you can get the dragon cave where they are 20% more likely to pop. Problem solved.

  • https://me.yahoo.com/rekzkarz#a0df5 REkzkaRZ

    Not sure what the 'problem' is either, but I do find it generally annoying/offensive.  I'm impressed that, after people pay the IAP, they still have the option to pay more.  Quite nice!  (NOT)
    I guess I'm of the viewpoint that 'the market' pays what it wants to, and as a player the market for me is around $1-$3 for a game, up to $5 for a super useful app (QuickOffice,GarageBand, iMovie). 
    I'm happier playing these "throw away" one-trick pony games and paying $2 at the most.  Not sure how that affects developers, but I guess the IAP is b/c every $1 counts for games that are built to be quick flashes in the pan?
    I wish you'd give the reviews a "long term playability rating" -- I'm curious if this game (and others) is something I'd play for a day, a week, a month, or ?  My guess (from watching) is no more than 1 week.

  • http://twitter.com/nicolinux nicolinux

    Also this one of the fewer games that does IAP right. It is NOT another mindless farming game that exploits the "want-need-feedback-loop" thingie. I am glad that the developers kept it like it is. Hope this game will do well on the App Store.

  • Fabiano Morais

    I also think the IAP use in this one is pretty fair. Just spent 0,75€ mainly to get rid of the ads. Used the 50 eggs to unlock the waterfall and a new ninja. The rest of it I plan to unlock by actually playing the game. No complaints whatsoever.

  • Baby Landlord

    Excellent game paid 2 bucks for IAP and no regrets (I never buy IAP either!) just wish I could play the same game between my iPod and iPad!

8bit Ninja Reviewed by Nissa Campbell on . Rating: 3.5