As much as it dents our hardcore gamer image to say it, we love a good minigame compilation here at Nintendo Life. When we're not blasting through Space Pirates or springing to the rescue of princesses for the thousandth time, you'll often catch us waggling away to a batch of minigames, so it was with great excitement we placed our preview copy of Ninja Captains into our Wii.
The game opens with a nicely animated cutscene introducing the four feline leads as they sit around watching a bit of telly. Pretty soon it becomes clear terrible things are happening in the world, causing our cat compadres to leap into action as the Ninja Captains in the title, springing into their first minigame onboard a storm-struck jet aircraft. The turbulence has had a pretty severe effect on the passengers, as they all start to throw up, and it's up to you to help them out by collecting their vomit in sickbags. Yes, really.
Running from passenger to passenger is a simple matter of tapping up or down on the D-pad, and you lift your bag to their mouths with a quick upswing of the Wii Remote; if you catch some chunks, you get points, with a certain target to achieve before you can move on. It's very intuitive and becomes extremely frantic as you dash between passengers, with bonus points awarded for catching the sick at just the right time, which keeps you on your toes: a thermometer above each one's head indicates how ill they are, and if it becomes full they pass out, robbing you of those priceless points. It's a very odd start to a game that gets odder, frankly.
With twenty minigames in total we won't bore you with a list of each one, but suffice to say they range from the fairly traditional - avoiding obstacles whilst balancing on a rail cart - to the bizarre, as you shake lunchboxes to please customers, carry plates on a tilting ship and become the main attraction of a Latin American carnival. It's fair to say there's no shortage of variation in Ninja Captains, although naturally there is a varying degree of quality in the minigames.
Take the Antarctica level, for example - a fantastic high-speed race down an ice floe that's reminiscent of Super Mario 64's Cool Cool Mountain slides at 300mph. The rail cart level is a great test of reactions and hand-eye co-ordination, with a mix of Remote twists and taps seeing your ninja cat sail past all obstacles, in a manner that reminded us of Mario and Sonic's excellent trampoline mode.
Sadly, there are a few minigames that aren't as high quality, with some being confusing, poorly controlled or simply laborious, as in the Tokyo skyscraper-cleaning level that sees you crank the Wii Remote like a handle and shake away any pigeons that land on your trolley. And that's it; no window-washing actually takes place, nor anything that really requires much skill other than the forearms of a rugby player and the patience of a saint.
The London level is similarly disappointing. Your feline chums find themselves in Covent Garden among the world's top performance artists, and have to put on a show to scrape together some money. "Fantastic!", you must be thinking, "a ninja street performer controlled with the Wii Remote!" The ideas come flying thick and fast, but regrettably the task is a simple matter of keeping your Remote pointer within a paw print, occasionally rotating it to fit the gap.
Although the quality of the minigames varies, it's worth saying the game's presentation excels throughout, with bags of charm evident in the characters and animated cutscenes, which have a curious animation style that fits the game to a tee. The resolution and texture detail throughout is refreshingly high too, and although obviously the Wii shouldn't be too taxed by a minigame compilation it's still an accomplished and nicely presented game, with some infuriatingly catchy music too.
All in all, Ninja Captains is obviously an entry in a very crowded genre, and despite some minigames disappointing it looks like the whole package contains enough enjoyment to warrant a further look when the game is released for Wii and DS across Europe in October.