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Mark of the Ninja - Tenchu's true heir is a 2D platformer

Side-scrolling stealth with serious bite

The eternal debate of pirates versus ninjas shows no sign of abating. If you can't decide where to place your allegiance, try upcoming XBLA title Mark of the Ninja. Our hands on with this nifty ninja stealth game had us marvelling at how it breathes life back into the genre.

Mark of the Ninja strips back the complexities of modern stealth games and returns to basics. It's 2D, which sounds like a limitation, but the maps are deep and should foster plenty of replay value - expect multiple routes to the finish, over rooftops and through vents, different collectibles to find and loads of hazards.

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You also have a surprisingly well stocked arsenal to distract and bamboozle anyone who gets in your way. We got hold of darts and noisemakers, plus a rather handy grappling hook to swing out of sight in a manner that calls to mind a certain bat-obsessed vigilante. Tools hinted at but not shown include smoke bombs and caltrops.

Staying in the shadows is ninja theory 101, and the light-and-darkness mechanics are fantastic - you can disappear into doorways or behind statues to become one with the scenery. The enemy A.I. is surprisingly switched on, and will take an interest when you, for example, fail to slice somebody's jugular discreetly.

Everything in Mark of the Ninja is rendered in a kind of cartoonish animation style, with cut scenes that stir forth fond memories of Jackie Chan Adventures, though the blood lust is more in keeping with prior Klei Entertainment effort Shank.

We're very much looking forward to playing Mark of the Ninja through. There's the makings of a brilliant stealth adventure here, though given the scarcity of sneak 'em ups nowadays, an average one would have been more than acceptable. Beware the men in dark pyjamas.

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