In the heyday of the platformer genre, original franchises like Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog stood out for their exceptional creativity and strong design principles. These instant classics changed the landscape of gaming with their success, and made their creators a pretty penny in the process.

At the same time, this revolution inspired countless imitators hungry to snatch cash from less savvy consumers through surface-level similarities to the industry’s finest. The most infamous in the stable of “me too” hop-and-bop adventures came in the form of licensed games based on television and film properties, which were able to leverage their brand recognition to achieve greater cash flow with minimal effort.

Modern classics in the genre like Shovel Knight and Shantae may lack the pedigree of yesteryear’s greatest, but they make up for it through sheer loving attention to the often overlooked details which made them so special. Nobu: Fat Revenge, conversely, feels like a tie-in for a Saturday morning cartoon that never was.

moon

Striking visuals are the Fat Revenge’s greatest asset, and are on full display right from the start. After selecting story mode from the stylish menu, players are thrown into a Japanese village against the backdrop of a glowing full moon. Though not the most original imagery, it succeeds in establishing a visually interesting space for our portly titular ninja to jump through. The bold colors and deep blacks evoke memories of Mark of the Ninja but with more of a cartoonish edge.

The environments, as attractive as they are, wind up being one of the greatest obstacles to playing the game. The camera will often zoom out to show off, say, the giant glowing moon in the background while shrinking enemy projectiles to near invisibility. Nobu’s trademark obesity makes him a fat target for all manner of tiny shurikens, which tend to blend in with the backgrounds due to the color scheme. This results in many quick deaths with no apparent cause, and the detail of the visuals becomes more frustrating than appealing as a result.

forest

The in-moment action of Nobu: Fat Revenge is relatively simple; Nobu can jump and throw projectiles to his front. These projectiles can be upgraded through powerups from defeated enemies, which can transform the simple kunai into a spread-shot of throwing stars. Even at their greatest, they fail to provide much protection from the onslaught of enemies and projectiles on screen.

While Nobu can theoretically dodge with a quick-dash move, the technique’s short range will often result in him thrusting face-first into whatever he had intended to avoid. Much like the graphical double-edged sword, these issues compound to turn the simplicity of the gameplay from a strength into one of the game’s greatest weaknesses. The lack of variety between stages ensure that the player experiences the same loop of frustration and mediocrity in perpetuity until their inevitable unfair demise. A cooperative mode for two players spices things up a bit, if only for the fact that interacting with a friend improves most things, but ultimately fails to add substance to the overall package.

coop

The game is currently in the alpha stage of development so many of these problems could be polished by the time of its full release. However, with so many flaws in its core design principles, it’s difficult to imagine anything short of a full-scale revamp would make it shine. Nobu may be fat with revenge, but his game is narrow in its execution of tired concepts and positively starved for originality.

About The Author

Community Manager/Editor

Daniel has spent the vast majority of his life immersed deeply in the worlds within games and the culture surrounding them. He hosts The Dead Pixels Podcast, a show celebrating less-than-classic retro games. His tendency toward positivity is tempered by a wealth of knowledge and experience with the medium's history.

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