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Coming soon, Helpful Ninja

I’m in the middle of making a new game and while it doesn’t involve zombies, in many ways it can be seen as a sequel to Zombie Road. It uses a lot of the same mechanics and game play, but puts more focus on rescuing people. Oh, and you’re a ninja.

Trading zombies for ninjas

For lack of a better title, I’m calling it Helpful Ninja. You are a ninja reluctant to help a kingdom in need, but you also can’t idly sit back and watch innocent people get massacred. There, how’s that for a story? That’s about all I’m good for.

The game plays like Zombie Road in dual-stick shooter manner, only with a mouse and keyboard. But instead of unloading shotguns and rocket launchers, you’re skillfully throwing ninja stars into oncoming monsters (which could possibly be zombies). Your goal is to save the children by yanking them out of their homes and getting them safely to the awaiting rescue ship.

Helpful Ninja, doing it for the children
Helpful Ninja, doing it for the children

Getting all my ducks ninjas in a row

So far it’s coming together pretty well and it is actually challenging, even for myself. Unlike Zombie Road, you have to pay attention to two things – the monsters AND the helpless children. In the end this game is intended as a high score challenge, as there are numerous ways to get bonus points to increase your final score. There will eventually be on-line leaderboards like Zombie Road as well, so you can flaunt your scores to your friends and family. I think a Facebook hook is also in need.

The funny thing is, I had already started Helpful Ninja back shortly after I got done with Zombie Road. I had a lot of the programming in place but abandoned the project for some reason (probably because I lost interest). Just by chance, while I was looking for some code snippets in past work for another new game (which I abandoned in favor of this), I discovered what was then simply called “Savior”. It was the same game, just a different theme and not quite as fleshed out. I think for the first time ever I took an existing code base and used it as a foundation.

Helpful Ninja
There's even a "build" mode in Helpful Ninja

Building a better game

I’m usually an “ending is better than mending” type of guy that would rather start from scratch on new projects, but this one was different. I played through the few levels I had complete on Savior and found it was pretty good, and that was enough motivation to pick the game back up and finish it. But in the time since the first game,  I had forgotten a lot of my coding so Helpful Ninja was almost as much as a learning projects and Zombie Road was. If anything, the new look I had on things improved the game in terms of efficiencies and logic. Sometimes the best thing you can do is step away and come back with some fresh eyes.

My only “disappointment” in Helpful Ninja is that I once again had to rely on existing game sprites. I have no skill of my own to create interesting sprites so I dug into old retro console titles to in search of a graphics set I could work with. I found a near-complete set of Final Fantasy 3 sprites and discovered there was even a ninja sprite, which is what made the decision to have a ninja as the main character. Not to mention the FF3 had children sprites, a king sprite, a boat and a bunch of monster sprites…so it turned out perfectly. The sound effects are all original, as simple as they are, but for music I plan on picking something over on 8-Bit Collective.

Since a lot of the groundwork was already in place for this game, it let me think about what would make the game fun and challenging, and I think I improved on my original design for the better. I’m looking forward to this game even if it doesn’t have the awesome guns-n-zombies theme of Zombie Road. Helpful Ninja will be a more complete game…there’s even a main menu!

Finally a new game

I hope to show the game to some of the people I meet at the Game Dev meetup this week, and then take their feedback to finish the game up for a release. Although, before then I will need some playtesting help, so if you’re interested, let me know. Helpful Ninja is fun to work on and is the first game I release in what I hope will be a long line of simple, fun games. I still have yet to make a fun arcade shooter like I’ve always wanted, but maybe that’s next. Or who knows, maybe Helpful Ninja will eventually end up as an Xbox Indie game? Pssh…yeah right…


  1. collin collin January 12, 2011

    totally want to playtest. you do the pixel art?

  2. Brian Brian January 12, 2011

    Cool, thanks, I’ll get you the preview version soon. And no, they’re sprites from the old NES version of Final Fantasy 3. If I can find someone with pixel art skills that can create some original sprites then I’ll switch it over in a heartbeat. That’s honestly the one thing missing from all my games, original art. Someday…

  3. collin collin January 13, 2011

    Ah, the airship should’ve tipped me off. forgot they had ninja classes in that game, totally boss.

  4. Brian Brian February 5, 2011

    I released the Helpful Ninja preview demo so you can download it from the Game Maker Community and give it a try. It’s far from complete but I’m not sure when I’ll revisit the game and finish it for final. This might be as done as it gets.

    Helpful Ninja Preview

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