Neon the Ninja: Punk-Inspired Stealth Sneaks Into PAX East


IMG_7915Mark of the Ninja is probably the gold standard of indie stealth games. It’s dark, brooding, and challenging, encouraging you to hide in the shadows at every opportunity. What happens, though, when that formula is inverted? That’s exactly what the just-announced game, Neon the Ninja is trying to do.

The developers behind the game revealed Neon the Ninja today at Pax East. It’s an indie 2-d stealth action game where the ninja is brightly colored and uses his changing neon colors to blend into the environment. It’s different, and surprisingly it works. In this game shadows are the enemy and neon signs are your friend.

Aesthetically, the game was absolutely inspired by the old Cartoon Network show Samurai Jack. Specifically this episode. Of course, that isn’t the only inspiration for the game. Joshua Hillyer, the lead writer, and Stuart Phelps, the self-taught lead developer, drew their inspiration from their days in punk rock. “From a narrative point of view, it’s about the punk rock attitude. He feels as though his clan isn’t doing enough and he’s like ‘I’m going to go out and actually kill all these bad guys and I’m going to do it wearing the brightest outfits possible because you know I’m that good. Sort of an arrogance thing.”

While I spoke with them, I was interested to see how much punk rock means to them and how they applied their musical experiences to game development. “It’s a natural progression, though. Music sort of lends itself to transitioning into games. We wanted to be creating something, and this is where our hearts are,” said Josh. Stu added in, “That underground movement of indie games that are really happening right now, it does feel a lot like the way that underground movement started with music and it has happened a few times. It has that familiar tone, a familiar feel to it.”

The stealth combat is fun and challenging

Unlike many developers here, the team behind Neon the Ninja doesn’t work full time on the project. This has led to them only just now releasing a pre-alpha of the game today. It’s rough around the edges, and like any pre-alpha there were plenty of bugs. That being said, it’s easy to see the game it could be. The opening level and that first boss ere a perfect introduction to the mechanics and it was easy to get excited. There’s definitely challenge there, but also a bit of quirky fun as the ninja tweets when he gets bored on the screen.

Just because they can’t work on the game full time, don’t for a second doubt the team’s dedication to the game. “It’s my passion project,” said Stu. “I sit through the say, I code stuff, and I make websites for people the way they want them, and then at home at night, I can just kind of go through and I can draw, or animate, or I can develop and it’s kind of my getaway thing that’s so much fun right now.”

The game is in pre-alpha, but there are promises of a demo soon. The game will release for PC, Linux, and the Wii U which was an interesting addition. There’s a video interview on the way, so keep an eye out for that!

About Stephen Crane

Stephen was hooked by the NES at a very young age and never looked back. He games on a daily basis and is currently trying to climb his way up the ranked ladder on League of Legends! Outside of the video game world he actually likes running and owns a rapidly growing collection of toed shoes. Stephen Crane is the owner of Armed Gamer.

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