Some may say that the most tumultuous and conflicting time of your life is your teenage years, a time when you must actively begin slotting yourself into a position in society while holding back the urge to slug all of the other teenagers around you. A time when you’re simultaneously discovering things about your stance on hundreds of topics while keeping a mental checklist on all of the grievances that your classmates have bestowed upon your person. Ninja Pizza Girl focuses on a teenage girl facing these tribulations and combines it with a speed-running game about quick pizza delivery.
You play the role of Gemma, the titular pizza girl tasked with delivering her father’s famous pizzas around the dangerous futuristic city consisting of mostly rooftops and lots of stark plunges (although you never actually die or fall off the map). Each level is timed, the theme of the timing being that the pizza gets too cold after a certain time period, thus not living up to the father’s culinary expectations and causing Gemma to return to the shop to get another pizza. Assisting you on your parkour running and jumping are your trusty ninja skills. These skills will also help you to defend yourself against the rival ninjas that increasingly litter the levels and try to stop you and essentially belittle you. This is where the interesting take of the game comes into play. There is no health system per se, but rather a self-esteem system in which Gemma gains more speed and the colors become more vibrant if she manages to make her jumps and avoid the other ninjas trying to knock her down. Conversely, landing flat on your face or getting knocked down or getting hit with garbage thrown by one of the rival ninjas causes you to slow down for a short period and the colors become dull and grey until eventually Gemma sits down and sulks. You can always coax her back to action by pressing the A button rapidly though.
Throughout the game the idea of building confidence in the face of adversity from peers is explored. Gemma becomes increasingly frustrated from the bullying but carries on due to the help from friends and family. Sometimes she receives a compliment from a customer when she delivers their pizza on time, which also helps improve her mood. In addition, between levels you can buy her pick-me-ups snacks and trinkets or clothing using pickups acquired from levels. These purchased items will increase her mood as well. I liked this theme of the game and was quite happy to see it explored. Videogames absolutely can be used to spread awareness of issues that people face everyday and perhaps to see the problem from someone else’s perspective, and I would certainly welcome this developer tackling things like this in the future.
The music does a good job of getting me pumped to run. It’s not generally speaking my usual style of listening, but the boisterous dubstep does convey the idea that you need to get your ass in gear. It helps too that it becomes more energetic the more successful jumps you make.
There are several different ways that each level can be taken to reach your destination to get you to replay a level to see if a certain path is faster. In addition, there are often pickups scattered throughout the edges of the level that require you to replay the same level a few times and forego the speed-running aspect in order to acquire them all.
So that’s the good. Onto the bad, and unfortunately the reasons why I won’t ultimately crow about this game.
While it is sometimes pretty satisfying to pull off a huge jump, deftly roll while hitting the ground and then launching off a wall to grab a distant ledge, some control issues occasionally hinder this fun. Ultimately I feel that the controls are somewhat floaty, and trying to get turned around in the game can feel like an eternity after achieving the speeds that your character can perform. The wall jumping often felt finicky as well. There are certain obstacles that I felt slowed down the exhilaration of free-running, such as the high-powered fans that lift Gemma upwards, but take a lot of time to get her velocity up and require you to stay dead center in the airflow or risk plummeting back down to earth. Later on there are LOTS of ninjas on the ceilings that drop down on your head and knock you flat, which wouldn’t be a problem if they weren’t ninjas dressed in brown on a brown ceiling, GOD DAMMIT. There was a one-off level where your pizza was getting cold quickly. You needed to find these burning barrels of trash and stand next to them in order to heat the pizza up. A fun mechanic in perhaps a different game where the whole premise is NOT built on speed. Here, it just feels like an interruption.
Eventually the level design, while occasionally adding new features, didn’t really stay fresh after several levels. It would have been nice to get out of the brown and grays of the city and add some variety.
Perhaps if there’s a sequel some of these issues will be tackled. Until then, this is probably for only the most hardcore speed-runners, or just folks that want to see a videogame tackle a particular social issue.