Ninja Pizza Girl is set in a not-too-distant future where mega-corporations rule the world, congestion is rife, people have no choice but to live in slums teetering atop skyscrapers but everyone’s favourite takeaway is still pizza. MegaCo have monopolised the pizza market and now they’re maximising profits by using underpaid teenage delivery ninjas and only the cheapest ingredients. Luckily there is still hope of eating a decent deep-dish thanks to the traditional family-owned pizzeria, PizzaRiffic. They may only have a small (0.001%) slice of the market but boy do they know how to make great pizzas, and best of all they promise to deliver in 20 minutes or less.
Ninja Pizza Girl, from family studio Disparity Games, is a fast paced, side scrolling, pizza delivering platform game where you assume the role of Gemma. She works at PizzaRiffic along with the rest of her family, and it’s this sixteen year old’s job to make sure that all deliveries get from the oven to the door quick-sharpish. To keep the game as fast-paced as possible you must run, duck, slide and jump from building to building across rooftops and balconies like a 2D version of Mirror’s Edge. The game puts you against the clock, giving you only a few minutes in which to complete each level, and you are ranked on how quickly you finish. There are multiple routes for you to take so you can replay the levels, taking different routes to try and improve your ranking. There are even handy arrows indicating the path for you should you be unsure of where you are heading. As well as story and speedrun modes Ninja Pizza Girl comes with some extra complimentary side orders in the form of bonus art, interviews, game modifiers and costumes. These are unlocked by using the collectables that you will see scattered around the levels.
It’s not all parkour and pizza though; this game touches on the sensitive issues of bullying, self-esteem and resilience. Very early in Ninja Pizza Girl you will deliver a pizza to a classmate called Wanda who is afraid of heights. Naturally this is an issue for someone who lives at the top of a skyscraper, and teenagers, including Gemma, tease her and call her “Wobbly Wanda”. When Gemma later delivers pizza to another girl from school, the resident meangirl Chloe, she remembers how much Chloe mocked her at school. This makes Gemma realise, and regret, the fact that while she thinks her taunting of Wanda is funny it makes her no better than Chloe. Bullying someone because of insecurities or because they are different can make the victim’s life hell.
The game visuals and sounds really hits home this message. If you are doing well and landing jumps perfectly you’ll see the screen awash with colourful rainbow-like trails and the music becomes a thumping techno track. However when Gemma is mocked by MegaCo’s army of pizza ninjas, the colours fade to grey and the music almost disappears – it’s how being a victim of bullying leaves you feeling; alone. It is an excellent way of conveying Gemma’s mental state. I openly admit the first time that she is taunted to the point where she is on her knees not willing to carry on it brought a tear to my eye.
Ninja Pizza Girl consists of twenty bronze trophies and to pop them you’ll have to, among other things, deliver pizzas quicker than any pizza ninja has done before, pick up all the collectables and safely land from a great height. There are a few hidden trophies and while the ingredients for these are top secret I can tell you that you might want to head into the Threads, TLC and Swag menus if you want to uncover them.
Ninja Pizza Girl is a well-made game with all the replayability you’d expect from a speedrunner title, but it also has a sobering message running through it. The issues of self-esteem, resilience and bullying are tough subjects to tackle, but Disparity Games have approached them in a well-handled manner. The way the audio drains and visuals fade when Gemma is confronted and mocked by other pizza ninjas highlights how empty and alone being bullied can leave you feeling. The theme of the game is aimed at a younger audience, and I think schools should think about introducing it into life lessons somehow. If it makes one person regret the way they treat others or makes a victim speak up against bullying it could literally make the world of difference.
NelMaNo Rating – 8.5/10