Ninja Pizza Girl is, to put it mildly, an odd one. Its tagline of “a serious game about self-esteem, bullying and resilience – and pizza delivering ninjas” really does capture it. Purely to play it’s an energetic platformer that requires frame-perfect timing to succeed, but doesn’t punish failure so harshly as to be frustrating. The framing is half ridiculous cyberpunk errand running, half serious commentary on the difficulties of teenagehood. Cara enthused about its very existence last year, while I’ve just played the new demo with a half-smile, half-frown. It’s tied to a Kickstarter, after 35,000 AUD, that launched a couple of days ago. Leap over the barrier for some thoughts.
Being a teenager is shit.
Like, really, properly garbage. No matter what other struggles you face or privileges you’ve been afforded, it’s a 6+ year cavalcade of mockery, social awkwardness and confusion. I’m glad there’s now games trying to express some of that because, as much as I enjoyed it, shooting another nineteen colourful bots on DM-Rankin didn’t exactly cover all the bases. I’m also happy this one is solid: even in this “pre-pre-pre-Alpha” state, movement in Ninja Pizza Girl is fast and the levels are challenging. There’s multiple routes and enough collectibles to make an optimal path difficult to summise.
Whether this can all combine into a meditation on teenagehood as strong as Gone Home or a platformer as fun as, uh, any one of the ridiculously good indie platformers remains to be seen. It needs refining, the movement feeling a little disconnected from surfaces and unresponsive to jerky reactions. The narrative is on the lighter side so far and will presumably stay that way in the majority, but I’d hope to see some introspection beyond damage taking the form of losing self-esteem. It has all the tools to be great, with parents-and-daughter dev team Disparity Games having the experience, both life- and game-wise, to make something special.