Developer: Cat Nigri
Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
By: Stojan Jovic
When was the last time you played a video game staring an 8-year-old ninja on roller-skates who stumbles upon an evil corporate conspiracy to take over the world with zombies and robots? Never? Well, now you will. Keen: One Girl Army is exactly that, with a unique gameplay element that’s unbecoming of what we think of as a ninja hack and slash game. A fun, addicting game with a great story and storybook-like graphics, however can be quite challenging and testing your patience at each turn you make on the board.
Keen: One Girl Army, developed by Phoenixx, is a puzzle based hack and slash game. Think Plants vs Zombies meets chess, or checkers. Each stage you encounter is a grid-based area populated with enemies and obstacles, and the only way you can move across the board is to “skate” your way vertically, or horizontally in the area. If enemies happen to be in your way, which is a good thing, you slash them with your sacred polearm. It may sound easy, but as you progress through the various areas and dungeons, the enemies get more populated, the obstacles become more in your way, and some enemies even require multiple “slashes” with your sacred polearm to kill. You gain extra points throughout the game by completing the levels quickly, without dying, without getting hit, making as little moves on the board as possible, and so on. Mutiple playthroughs are almost necessary for this, as you perfect your gameplay throughout, and master your abilities.
The storyline, as stated before, puts you in the “skates” of Keen, an 8-year-old ninja in training who is destined to become the Village’s protector. Her sensei, Grandma (her actual grandma too) raises her as her own daughter, because Keen’s actual mother mysteriously vanishes from the village. Grandma passes down the sacred polearm to Keen in the beginning of the game, and as Keen moves away from the village into an overworld-type map similar to Super Mario World or Chrono Trigger, she discovers an evil corporation hell bent on destroying the world. It’s up to an 8-year-old girl to save the world. There’s nothing else special to it, the storyline almost takes a back seat to the gameplay, which is what will keep you coming back.
As with many puzzle games like this, the difficulty can ramp up pretty quick, so if you make it past the one hour mark without throwing your controller across the room in frustration, you’re doing great keep it up! Many areas you encounter can get quite frustrating and difficult, and require multiple retries. The checkpoints are too far and few in between, so failure can set you back a bit, but not too far that would require starting completely over. Starting over would also allow you to pick up power orbs throughout the levels, which if you cash them in can grant you new abilities that make you stronger in offense, and defense.
Graphically the game looks great; colorful and vibrant with smooth motions, and is also complimented by a retro-stylized soundtrack mixed with authentic Japanese music (is that the right term? Probably not…). Between tablet mode and TV mode the game runs smooth, and the animations are crisp, although there aren’t that many to begin with.
This game surprised me, and I enjoyed it, despite the corny premise; play as a 9 year old ninja girl on roller-skates and save the world. We all know games like this don’t revolve around the story, and the gameplay will keep you entertained throughout, so long as you don’t mind being patient while you plan the most effective moves across the board. It’s a colorful and vibrant game that will surely entertain you in not only looks, but smoothness as well. I hope you enjoy the game as much as I did, because it surely will entertain you throughout!
Colorful art style
Unique, easy to pick up gameplay
Quick difficulty spike, can be frustrating