Banzai Blade is an unexpected freebie charmer. Released by Cartoon Network, this little gem puts you in control of a ninja in the land of Nihon tasked with purifying temples of evil spirits called Oni. Sure, the App Store is full of ninja-themed screen-slashers, but this title manages to combine just the right amount of kiddie-charm with precision-based challenge to keep you coming back time and again.
Banzai Blade places you on a seemingly endless road similar to the massively popular infinite-runner Temple Run (check the link for our review). While traveling to each temple you’ll see demons, dragons, and other baddies. Slashing the demons Fruit Ninja-style sends them back to the hell they came from, while dragons spit fireballs that you have to tap to deflect back at them. Each defeated enemies will drop “blossoms,” the in-game currency which allows you to purchase upgraded items. There’s a huge range of items to buy: weapons, armor, power-ups, and enhancements, each category of which has tons of different selections with varying effects. The item shop holds a surprising amount of depth and definitely encourages you to go hunting for more blossoms.
For a free game, Banzai Blade offers a stunning amount of quality. The graphics looked great on my iPad 2, using plenty of reds and yellows to convey the feeling of running into the sunset. Upgraded equipment and new costumes will show up on your character both in the main menu and in-game, which is a nice touch. Clearing achievements will net you bonus blossoms, giving you additional objectives each time you play. Perhaps the best part of Banzai Blade though is the way it balances its difficulty. Enemies grow in strength as you progress, requiring more slashes or stronger weapons to kill. But buying better items alone won’t save you; enemies also spawn in more complicated patterns later on, as well as appearing amidst bombs which will instantly kill you if you slash them. Even if you shell out real cash to buy blossoms and get better weapons, armor, and the like, you’ll still need a bit of skill to succeed in the land of Nihon.
My only issue with the game is a nit-picky one: the speed of the running makes the action feel slower-paced than I’d like. Particularly when first starting the game the slow pace feels like a turtle crawling, and all it takes is a bad first-impression for a free app to get deleted. Comparing the flow of the game to Temple Run, the slow, almost-walk speed turned me off from the onset, and I’d hate to think of people not playing the game simply because they think that it will be too easy (it’s published by Cartoon Network, after all).
Banzai Blade still strikes me as an unexpectedly fun title, especially for free. The character and atmosphere of the game possess a charm reminiscent of the old Cartoon Network classic “Samurai Jack,” and it wouldn’t surprise me if somehow the game were developed into a TV series of its own. I’d love to see Banzai Blade expanded on in the future, perhaps with different playable characters or new locations outside of Nihon, but for now this slashing, tapping ninja epic is great the way it is.