As we move into the next stage of VR following the amazing Half Life: Alyx, we are expecting the next big thing that can make VR the gaming platform of choice. Unfortunately, the next big thing doesn’t always come often, so in the meantime, we have tons and tons of indie VR projects to keep us busy while the next juggernaut of VR is being made. Today we take a look at Shinobi Breaker, which is just an insane experience that combines rhythm games with a fighting game and the result is a visual onslaught that basically puts you into a game that might’ve come out in 1989. It’s definitely a fun experience though, so let’s take a look at what makes the game tick.
Oh, where to even start with this one. Throughout the various levels, you will be doing a mixture of fighting and dodging while equipped with ninja weapons and it’s all done with a truly bizarre visual style that combines cel-shading with some ideas that look like they were ripped out of Minecraft. The gameplay is plain insane. You’ll be using swords, bows, ninja stars and more as you fight against these wild-looking creatures made out of blocks and each one has its own strategy to defeat it. At a glance, seeing what’s happening on screen is pretty indecipherable, but as you complete each level, you will get the hang of everything and you will find yourself being pushed to keep on playing.
What it Feels like to Play
It’s a wild experience playing Shinobi Breaker as it as much a test of your ability to handle the crazy visuals taking place on screen as it is to beat the levels themselves. The gameplay is pretty intense and can be very difficult at times as you need to pay attention to many different things happening on screen at the same time and it is very easy to get overwhelmed. The enemies are very interesting as you’ll see gigantic cube birds, frogs and all sorts of crazy creatures flying at you through space and each one has a different attack pattern, so you need to learn the rhythm in order to beat them. Each one attacks by sending slash patterns at you that you need to slash in the correct directions to defeat them. When it’s rolling on all cylinders, the experience is kind of a VR translation of a very old-school game. There are no worlds to explore here and there is very little variety in the gameplay, for the most part, so you’re really getting an old school experience in VR that is easy to jump into and easy to get addicted to and those types of games still have their place in the current VR landscape.
What will keep you playing?
If you remember how old school games worked, they weren’t built on the appeal of amazing storylines or breathtaking graphics. The main appeal came from the intrigue of what lied beyond in the next level. The mystery of what new creatures await you in the next level and how much tougher will the next challenge be is what will push you to keep playing here and luckily, the levels are fairly short, so you won’t worry too much about needing to spend a lot of time in this one as your play sessions will last exactly as long as you want them to. In addition to this, Shinobi Breaker is a truly insane workout, so you can utilize this as a nice addition to your VR workout.
Shinobi Breaker will have you moving around a lot and whether its ducking and dodging or slashing with your swords like a mad man, you should have a good amount of room available to you when playing this as it can be very easy to get lost in the gameplay and lose your place in the room.
I recorded my 30-minute workout with Fitbit and played on an Oculus Quest 2 Headset with Airlink.
Calories burned: 161
Calories burned per minute: 5
Average Heart Rate: 90
Max Heart Rate: 129
Active Minutes: 31
Surprisingly, Shinobi Breaker gives you an awesome workout that utilizes every bit of energy you’ve got at times. Trying to get through these levels and the addictive nature of it means you are going to be pushing yourself constantly to see what is coming next. The bosses can be incredibly challenging and when these more elite enemies appear, get ready to sweat as the intergalactic battles are incredibly intense and you will rarely go more than 2 seconds without having to swing your swords or shoot your various weapons. This constant motion mixed with the wild imagery taking place on-screen creates an awesome workout experience that is tracked fully within the game via a calorie counter.
Your arms are going to be on fire by the end of your playthrough sessions with Shinobi Breaker. It’s the constant action on screen that will have you slicing and dicing with your sword at nearly all times and this intensity kicks up a notch for some of the tougher enemies and when the bosses come to play, all bets are off and you are going to work to get your prey. Stretching is absolutely a necessity when playing Shinobi Breaker and there are few VR games that will get your arms involved in the way this game does. To increase the challenge, you might consider adding weights to your wrists so there is more balance with your swings, as I have found having little to no weight resistance led to me almost throwing my arm out at times from the intensity on screen. Depending on the level you are on, sometimes you will be asked to do a time attack, where the enemy will escape quickly if you don’t act fast enough and when this happens, you will be launching your ninja stars by smashing them with the sword like a windmill from hell as you desperately try to erase these enemies from existence before they can escape.
Your legs aren’t directly involved in the gameplay here, but they can be utilized if you want to be. For example, most enemies attack with a pattern of slashes that will try to interrupt your nonstop volley of ninja stars and while you can dice these away fairly easily most of the time, sometimes you will be too engaged with the other activities at hand and might need to just dodge out of the way instead. Considering these attacks come from all different angles, you can definitely duck and jump out of the way if need be, opening the enemies up for an easy counterattack if you time it right.
Core/ Balance- 6/10
There are parts of Shinobi Breaker that can involve your core, but this is all dependant on your body positioning. For example, when activating a power-up for the ninja stars, sometimes you’re going to have to launch them very quickly and for me, I held the ninja stars up like I was serving a tennis ball and I delivered my launches via the sword in the way I would swing a racket, creating a ton of torque each time and heavily engaging my core muscles. This isn’t going to get you a six-pack, but you knew that going in and for what it is, it’s a hell of a time.
Time Perception- 8/10
While I cannot claim to remember what it was like to game back in the early days of gaming with arcades and such, but I can see the early influences shining through here as the gameplay is so simple, yet effective as it pushes you to see what the next boss has in store for you. The levels are pretty short with none of them really exceeding 10 minutes at any time and there is a timer for them letting you know how much time you have left to complete your mission, though I never really needed the time given and felt like most could be completed in around 5 minutes or less if you really know what you are doing.
There are a decent amount of levels available with Shinobi Breaker and each one offers a unique twist to it. On top of this, you can unlock tons of different bonuses to your arsenal including weapons and tweaks like additional damage done. The catch is you can only take one of them into battle with you, sp each battle could be a bit different depending on what equipment you decide to take with you into battle.
Fitness Scalability- 7/10
The scalability of your workout relies on what kind of player you are going to be. Are you going to be slow and calculated, timing your shots as carefully as possible while avoiding enemy attacks? Or are you going to be a fast-firing maniac slashing at your ninja star launchers like a crazy person, trying to take down the bosses as fast as possible? If you’re the former, you aren’t going to get a huge workout in this game as your movement will be very measured and there won’t be a lot of sweating going on. If you’re like me though, you want to take these enemies down fast and when that happens, you are going to tire yourself out faster than you might expect with a game like this.
Dizziness/ Lack of Nausea- 9/10
Despite the pretty wild visual style that harkens back to the days of Nintendo, the dizziness factor that is always present when we are talking about VR really didn’t seem too present while I was playing and while some of the harder bosses can overwhelm you a bit visually speaking, nothing was ever moving too fast or flashing too bright that I felt sickness of any kind and it was a pretty smooth experience throughout.
Social Competition- 7/10
Although there isn’t a multiplayer mode as of yet, there are leaderboards so you can compare with other players on how fast you completed the levels, how much damage you took, and what bonuses you took in with you all add up to your final score. If this is the type of thing that drives you, you can find yourself playing again and again to top the best players in the world and while it is an old school way to interact with others, it is a nice driving force behind giving a tough level just one more try.
VR Fit Score
Shinobi Breaker is a unique experience that combines elements from many other VR games and puts them in a package that is both bizarre and addictive at the same time. The graphic style is wholly its own and you likely won’t see many games looking like this in VR. The combat is fun and frenetic and requires precision aiming and the recognizing of visual cues to succeed. There are a solid amount of levels to take on, with the later ones making for an especially challenging physical and gameplay experience. You can get a solid workout in here for your arms if you get really into it, and having the flexibility to have a hard workout or an easy one depending on your playstyle is a great thing for a game to have.
Shinobi Breaker certainly does not come to you with top-of-the-line visuals or any real VR physics involved, so if you are expecting something that feels like the evolution of gaming as many come to VR to find, you aren’t going to get much out of this experience. The gameplay while fun, is very repetitive and if shooting ninja stars at gigantic block monsters in space doesn’t sound all that appealing to you, then there is little else that will catch your attention here. There is a fitness tracker in the game, but it seems to be pretty random as it seems rather impossible to get an accurate depiction of the calories burned just by success within the level, and despite multiple playstyles throughout, my calories burned number was always pretty similar.
Shinobi Breaker is available for $14.99 on Steam and playable on Oculus Rift and Oculus Quest 1 and 2 headsets.