Atomic Ninjas is not quite a MOBA though it comes pretty close. The game involves fighting other players in online grudge matches using a variety of weapons within a large catalog of competitive game modes. Like Awesomenauts, DOTA2 and League of Legends, the survival and longevity of Atomic Ninjas lies solely on its online community. This is where the game suffers on the Vita. Offline play isn’t much of an option because of a glaring design oversight. Atomic Ninjas is a structurally sound game with serviceable and easy to grasp controls and yet its biggest problem is the lack of players making the game sometimes unplayable.
Before hopping into online play, its best to take in the game’s tutorial mode where the systems and rules are taught. Your introduction to the game is watched over by an old ninja master who speaks in a manner befitting the tired racial stereotype of a broken English speaking Asian fellow. It’d be funny if it weren’t somewhat distasteful. Not-so-subtle racism aside, the tutorial does a fine job of introducing you to the game’s basic combat mechanics which can change on the fly after picking up different weapon types. Tools of destruction include shurikens, a gravity gun-type weapon that can lift up and shoot crates and a boxing glove that adds a knock back effect. Armed with these weapons, you don’t actually kill anyone in the game. Instead, you’re pushing them back or killing them indirectly, such as knocking them into a pit or in pools of nasty looking liquids. Getting around the map is accomplished by performing a hook shot that allows you to swing across chasms or picking up rocket that gives you a limited but quick burst of speed.
Atomic Ninjas offers a wealth of different game types. When creating an online match, the host has the option to pick between standard King of the Hill and Capture the Flag modes. In King of the Hill, the players are tasked with making their way to the center of the arena and stand within a target zone as long as possible and build up points. Other players will attempt to do the same, resulting in a gathering of carnage and mayhem. The player with the most points at the end of the round wins. Capture the Flag is pretty self explanatory and follows the “most rules win” philosophy. Playing through games will unlock new character designs and special abilities.
Truth be told, I didn’t get much of a chance to try out many of the game modes because Atomic Ninjas is designed in such a way that forces the player to go up against other people. This is a problem because no one is playing. Making this especially infuriating is that you can’t play the game without having at least one human player in the group. You can fill up to two player slots with bots but if you want to play a match, pray that someone comes across your game. You can try searching for an open game but I could never find one. At least Awesomenauts let you play the game with a full compliment of AI teammates. This design decision completely breaks the game and makes spending money for something you frequently can’t play a questionable decision.
I wouldn’t recommend the Vita version of Atomic Ninjas. The game itself is fine and could be exciting when played against a full compliment of human opponents but that’s a guarantee the game can’t make. As such, there’s no reason to spend $2.99 on a game that’s completely devoid of its most crucial and essential component. Better to get it on a console or PC (if it gets through Steam Greenlight) where there are bound to be more people sticking around.