Ninja Pizza Girl is a game I’ve had my eye on for quite a while. Three months into the game’s development I had the chance to go hands-on with Disparity Games’ latest project and I absolutely loved it. For something that was so early in development, I was surprised by how solid everything felt. Well, it has been a year since I played the last build so I reached out to Disparity Games to see what they’ve been up to.
Ninja Pizza Girl is a game about multiple things. Sure delivering pizza may serve as the main plot point, but beneath that is a game that tackles one of today’s most important issues: bullying.
The core gameplay puts the players in the shoes of Gemma, a pizza delivery girl from the distant future; a future where pizza delivery is handled by teenagers dashing across rooftops and in Gemma’s case, battling ninjas. This is a side scrolling action platformer, one that takes heavy inspiration from games like Sonic the Hedgehog and Mirror’s Edge.
Right from the moment Gemma began to move, I understood where the Sonic inspiration came from. Gemma has a bit of a floaty design to her. She won’t stop immediately or even move immediately and glides for a few inches when walking along the ground. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when I was pressed for time and wanted to complete a run as fast as possible, I found it to be somewhat annoying. Otherwise, the Mirror’s Edge comparison is the most prevalent found when traversing each level’s many floors and weaving in and out of obstacles.
Like Mirror’s Edge’s Faith, Gemma knows her fair share of parkour and will use that to her advantage. As Gemma comes into contact with any ledges, she’ll vault over them with finesse. Some of Gemma’s moves do require some input on the player’s part though. For instance, Gemma can wall jump which is easy enough. Jumping from a high point and landing requires some timing to make sure Gemma rolls properly or else she’ll hit the ground, losing her momentum.
Objectives vary from level to level. Most of the levels I played required me to get to the end of the stage and successfully deliver the pizza to the hungry customer. However, that’s not an easy feat. As I mentioned before, Gemma will come across some ninjas who block her path.
What intrigued me about Ninja Pizza Girl was how Disparity Games has handled the game’s combat. Gemma can dispose of the ninjas in one of two ways: by sliding along the ground and tripping them or doing a homing attack from the air, similar to one of Sonic’s moves.
As you soar through the air, accumulating various pickups and never faltering, one of Ninja Pizza Girl’s most interesting mechanics kicks in. With this, Disparity Games rewards the player who can move gracefully through the environment by making things a little brighter. If you manage to land perfectly and collect enough pickups, a rainbow will trail behind Gemma as she sprints through the rooftops, the world will get brighter, colors more vivid, and music gets louder. It’s really cool and kind of provided some incentive to do the best that I could.
Conversely, if you’re not able to keep your momentum going, Gemma’s world becomes bleak, colors begin to mute, and frankly everything starts to get a little depressing. This brings into focus one of Ninja Pizza Girl’s way of highlighting depression, something I’m sure most of us have gone through at least once. When Gemma messes up or wipes out in front of enemies, instead of them killing her, they mock her failure. Gemma will then get down on one knee, beaten. But Disparity Games uses this mechanic to show depression isn’t something that has to get you down in the dumps. No, you can battle through this by believing yourself — or in this case by mashing the jump button. Doing so makes Gemma rise to her feet, charged and ready to continue with her delivery. Of course, if you manage to fail enough times, you’ll need to restart the level.
Ninja Pizza Girl was the first game I got the chance to play that was so early in development. Things might have been rough around the edges, but I still enjoyed the sliver I was given to try. Now? Well, I’m really surprised by just how much a game can change, even in its alpha stages. Nothing huge has happened between the time I last spent some time as Gemma, vaulting from rooftop to rooftop and delivering pizza and pizza. But little changes are noticeable. Gemma’s dialogue has been tweaked ever so slightly, the way text boxes swing in has been improved (or not, depending on who you are). However, there’s one thing that remains the same: the fun factor. Pre-alpha or not, Ninja Pizza Girl is fun and that’s what counts. The gameplay is solid, if not a little floaty, but not so much that it disrupts your flow. Combat is short and sweet and there’s a message that NPG wants to deliver, one that I want to hear. Needless to say, Ninja Pizza Girl is one of my most anticipated upcoming releases yet.
Disparity Games will be bringing Ninja Pizza Girl to the Wii U sometime next year. You can download a shorter version of the demo here.