Commissioned by the Australian government as part of an anti-bullying campaign, Ninja Pizza Girl carries with it an important message. Having never been an Australian teenager, and certainly not in today’s technological climate (camera phones only becoming the norm a few years after I left that environment) I am not qualified to pass judgement on it’s effectiveness in this regard, and so any commentary made below is only in regards to the game itself, rather than its cause.
That said, then, it’s an unusual combination of endless runner and platformer, offering multiple paths through a level so long as you do not stop moving, ever. Gemma, a Pizza Girl who is also a Ninja (sadly not a Girl who delivers Ninja Pizzas) has to deliver her precious cargo within a strict time limit while actual ninjas try to stop her. I’ve got no idea what’s happening in Australia but bloody hell.
Getting knocked down by a bully interrupts Gemma’s flow and also subjects her to their harassment and jeers, sapping away at her self esteem. If it gets too low, she can’t function and needs to spend precious pizza-time psyching herself up, usually ending in a failed mission and a cold pizza. The theme of bullying runs through the story and dialogue in a fairly gentle way, and psyching Gemma back up is as simple as mashing the jump button or buying her some chocolate for self-care between missions.
One mis-step I identified is in the way the game handles difficulty. There’s sliders for how hard you want the game to be, and if you slide it all the way to the easiest mode, an achievement pops up stating “no judgement here”… which kinda felt like a judgement. While it’s absolutely correct that people should choose whichever difficulty they are going to have the most fun with, calling attention to someone choosing the easiest mode feels patronising at best and mocking at worst. “Hey, no judgement here, you can play on loser baby mode as much as you want!” doesn’t seem to line up with the game’s overall message.
Fin Or Bin:
The movement is fun once you get going but there is a tremendous amount of momentum to contend with when you turn around or start moving from zero, with Gemma accelerating at the pace of a truck. Ultimately it’s got a good message behind it but not one that will resonate with me, and the game itself isn’t my cup of tea. Recycling icons appear throughout the game as collectible pickups, but this one’s skipping the recycling and going in the Bin.