Ninjala for Nintendo Switch review: A complex close-combat battle royale

Ninjala Winners
(Image: © iMore)

iMore Verdict

Bottom line: Fight against other players using your sweet parkour ninja moves and your powerful bubblegum. The player left standing is the best ninja of them all. Considering how fun it is and that it's free to play, you really ought to try it out.


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    Free to play

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    Supports up to 8 players

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    Complex combat

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    Fun art style

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    Customizable characters


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    Parring outcome is left to chance

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    Not a good game for little kids

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    In-game purchases

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    Story modes blocked by paywall

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We've seen a major upsurge in free-to-play multiplayer games within the past few years, especially for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. However, these free-for-alls haven't been quite as common on the Nintendo Switch. Enter Ninjala, a multiplayer action game from GungHo Online Entertainment that was created solely for Nintendo's hybrid system. Many have compared it to Splatoon, but that's hardly an accurate comparison.

Unlike the paint turf wars in Splatoon, Ninjala is free to play and has a focus on kiddie-style ninja battles where parkour-savvy characters wield bubblegum, yo-yos, hammers, and katanas. Up to eight players enter an arena and then duke it out to see who is the best fighter. What makes gameplay even more fun is the fact that characters are customizable and weapons can be crafted and upgraded.

After spending several hours playing Ninjala, I can definitely say that this is a fun way to entertain yourself and your friends. The battles are challenging-yet-fun and require a little more skill in order for you to block or attack your foes. Plus, there are plenty of silly kiddie weapons and items to make things interesting. Considering it's free-to-play, every Switch owner should really check it out. I will just add that while this looks like a game made for kids, the combat system is actually rather challenging and will be more enjoyable for more skilled players.

Ninjala What I like

Ninjala Battle

Ninjala Battle (Image credit: GungHo Online Entertainment)

When it comes to acquiring video games, you cannot get better than a free-to-play game. Ninjala does offer a battle pass and in-game purchases, but you don't need to buy anything in order to enjoy the battle royale portion of the game. That being the case, any Switch owner should consider downloading the game and checking it out.

Close-combat system More complex than you think

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DeveloperGungHo Online Entertainment
PublisherGungHo Online
GenreAction, Multiplayer
PlayersUp to 8
Launch PriceFree-to-play

Some people have been comparing Ninjala to Splatoon. If you're solely looking at the art style, there are some similarities since the characters are super colorful and have a playful edginess to them. However, the comparisons don't go much beyond that.

Where Splatoon is all about turf wars and paint, Ninjala is all about wielding kiddie weapons and bubblegum for largely close-combat attacks. Players need to memorize different button combinations in order to use the most moment-appropriate moves and each weapon type offers a different fighting style for players to use. This can make it a little difficult for starting players to get the hang of the battle system, especially if they keep bouncing from one weapon type to another. However, once you have things figured out, you can be a force to be reckoned with. That being the case, this is definitely a game for competitive people who prefer games that require skill.

For instance, one of the main items in each player's arsenal is Ninja-gum. It can protect the player as well as attack opponents. However, if an adversary attacks you at just the right moment, the gum bubble in your mouth will pop and temporarily bind you, leaving you momentarily defenseless and unable to move. This makes it so you really have to think carefully when choosing an attack or facing off against someone else in the arena. Additionally, the characters can run up walls, so you need to pay attention to all of the surfaces within the arena or else you might get jumped, unexpectedly.

Fun art style and customization Create unique characters

Ninjala Pass

Ninjala Pass (Image credit: iMore)

Going back to the kiddie art style, one of the things that makes Ninjala so fun to play is that you get to customize your avatar. You can change the skin color, hair colors, face, clothing, and more to truly make a customized character. All hair styles, clothing, and facial layouts are available regardless of whether or not you initially choose a male or female avatar. And as with most battle royale games, if you purchase the season pass, you'll also earn more customization options as you continue to level up.

Ninjala What I don't like

Ninjala Rock Paper Scissors

Ninjala Rock Paper Scissors (Image credit: iMore)

While Ninjala is a great game for competitive players, it's not a good option for everyone. Young kids and people who don't like competitive play probably won't like it.

Parrying and blocking Rock, paper, scissors

You basically have to beat your opponent at rock, paper, scissors in order to win certain clashes.

While playing in the arena, if you happen to go up against someone and you both execute the same attack, you'll be brought into a roshambo situation to determine the winner. You can press up, down, or sideways. The Up Attack loses to Sideways Attack, the Down Attack loses to Up Attack, and the Sideways Attack Loses to Down Attack.

While this is an interesting way of determining a winner in these scenarios, I don't particularly like that the game pulls you out of the intensive combat only to win or lose a clash based on how well you do during a short rock, paper scissors game. It makes me feel as though my chances of winning are more left up to chance than they are to my fighting skills.

Not a good kid game Microtransactions and complexity

Ninjala Story Mode (Image credit: iMore)

Despite having been inspired by children's pretend ninja battles, having a cartoony art style, and employing kiddie weapons, Ninjala might not be the best game for kids. As mentioned before, the battle system is a bit complex and then there's the whole can of worms that is microtransactions.

I know there are several parents out there that specifically chose the Nintendo Switch as their home console because compared to other platforms, there aren't as many Switch games with microtransactions in them. But as with other free-to-play battle royales, this one offers in-game purchases. In fact, the game's story modes are all blocked behind a paywall. So, players will need to spend real-world money in order to check out all of the aspects that the game has to offer. On top of that, there's a gumball machine that players can spend money on in the hopes of getting better weapons, which is basically a loot box situation.

If you haven't already, you can set up Parental Controls to keep kids from making purchases. However, I know many parents would just prefer that the games their kids play don't offer them in the first place.

Ninjala Should you play it?

Ninjala Bubblegum

Ninjala Bubblegum (Image credit: iMore)

Ninjala is a playful battle royale multiplayer that uses close combat instead of the traditional guns or distance weapons found in other free-for-all titles. You can play against others online. During the time I spent playing it, I really enjoyed the cartoony art style and the fun kiddie-inspired moves employed in the game. It really takes some skill to play, but its really enjoyable for anyone who like competition and challenge.

Considering that Ninjala is a free-to-play game, everyone really ought to check it out and see if it's something they're interested in. If you like it, then you immediately have another game you can play with your buddies or with people online. If it's not to your taste than you're just out a few minutes of your time taken to checking it out. That being said, if you're a parent and don't want your kid playing games with microtransactions, you might want to steer clear.

Rebecca Spear
Gaming Editor

Gaming aficionado Rebecca Spear is iMore's dedicated gaming editor with a focus on Nintendo Switch and iOS gaming. You’ll never catch her without her Switch or her iPad Air handy. If you’ve got a question about Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda, or just about any other Nintendo series check out her guides to help you out. Rebecca has written thousands of articles in the last six years including hundreds of extensive gaming guides, previews, and reviews for both Switch and Apple Arcade. She also loves checking out new gaming accessories like iPhone controllers and has her ear to the ground when it comes to covering the next big trend.