Ratalaika Games has become known by many players as the go to when it comes to earning fast and easy trophies or achievements. The publisher usually releases a new game every week and most of the time you can earn every trophy in a very short period of time. As for the quality of the games themselves it usually varies with some of them being quite fun and others being just tolerable long enough to add that Platinum to your profile. One of their latest games is Within the Blade from developer Ametist Studio that originally released on PC under the name Pixel Shinobi. Within the Blade is actually not as easy and fast to earn all the trophies and can be quite tough as well.
The story in the game takes place in 1560 A.D and has you playing as a ninja from the Black Lotus clan named Hideaki. The last Shogunate of Japan is gone and the evil Steel Claw Clan has unleashed demons on the land. It’s up to Hideaki to take on these demons and put a stop to the Steel Claw Clans schemes. The story generally isn’t that important or compelling here so let’s move on to the gameplay which mixes together platforming, RPG, crafting, and stealth mechanics.
As you move through each level in the game, you’ll perform actions such as jumping, wall jumping, wall climbing, and attacking. Attacking is done with your sword or your bare fists with both frontal and stealth attacks being options. Hiding in the shadows and performing stealth takedowns will yield quicker kills and were more satisfying to me but if you just want to go at them with your sword combos that is an option too. You can also block enemy attacks and use various items against them such as Shurikens or mines. At times in the game there are boss fights with around 10 in total with each one providing quite the challenge until you figure out their weakness.
Every enemy that you take down rewards you with XP while money and items can be found to buy new items and craft them. All of this is done back at your village which you can go to between levels. Stat upgrades are purchased at the dojo and include things like more health and new moves. Meanwhile the items can be used to craft your weapons like Shurikens, mines, and potions. It works but given that you can just buy items I didn’t always find a need to mess with the crafting system. The additional moves and upgrades are welcome but it will take you some time to learn everything and get to grips with the controls.
The campaign itself offers quite a bit of content and there are additional challenge levels you can play after it to get more out of the game. Those interested in the trophies will find 32 of them here including a Platinum but as I said earlier it is neither a fast or easy completion like most of Ratalaika’s other published titles. Expect to spend quite a few hours with this one if you want to earn that Platinum. The graphics got that retro aesthetic going on and it looks fine but doesn’t have enough variety. There are a few different environments but each level set in that environment style kind of looked the same from the last. The music has a very Japanese feel to it though which I appreciated and quite enjoyed.
Within the Blade is a solid stealth-action platformer with challenging gameplay that might bring back memories of Ninja Gaiden. It’s got a good amount of content to play through and plenty of challenge for those who like that in their games. The downsides are that the challenge may turn some away, the controls have a learning curve, the visuals get a little repetitive, and some of the systems like the crafting don’t feel thought out enough. I still enjoyed my time with it though and for the affordable price I recommend it to those who enjoy the genre.
*Within the Blade is available now on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. PlayStation 5 version reviewed. Review copy provided by the publisher for this review.
Within the Blade$10.99
- Challenging 2D stealth/action gameplay
- Lenghty campaign with additional bonus challenge levels
- Solid pxel art style with enjoyable Japanese sounding music
- Might be too challenging for some
- Controls have a learning curve
- Not enough visual variety
- Crafting doesn't feel essential