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Freeware Garden: Ronin

The sun. The glorious EGA sun. Let us all salute it!

Looking for an excellent, stealthy murder simulator? Lucky you, then, for here’s Ronin to cater to your every (virtual) killing whim; a game that’s pure of heart and doesn’t really bother with formalities. Or a plot. A game that simply wants to entertain you and help you hone those subtly tactical mouse and keyboard skills.

All you have to do here is guide your oddly ninja-esque ronin through three increasingly complex and demanding levels using an expanding arsenal of moves. That, and murder a heavily-guarded, smartly-dressed, portly gentleman hiding at the end of each level.

Sounds a bit like a short-form remake of Saboteur, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not.

Definitely not Saboteur. And not even a hint of Manic Miner. Tsk, tsk, tsk.Though still something between a prototype and a demo, Ronin is already both one of the most innovative action games I’ve played in years and a superbly clever fighting game in itself. It’s also turn-based. Yes, turn-based, as in you make one move, the baddies make a move, you make a move and so on and so forth, though this only applies to combat situations. When not in immediate danger of being shot you can freely jump and grapple hook through as many windows as you like in proper, traditional real time.

You can even hack computers or play around with elevators, but from the moment a gun is pointed your way everything freezes and switches to turns, which will initially come as a shock to you. Well, it won’t now I’ve told you all about it, but I was pretty confused when my fluidly striding avatar was suddenly only allowed a single action before the guys in the suits shoot him dead.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is a mechanic that works way better than any time-slowing, combat-pausing gimmick the way of The Matrix and Max Payne. It’s brilliant and fluid and when coupled with Ronin’s incredibly elegant controls, Tomasz Wacławek’s Windows-only opus really shines. You must simply play it, you must.

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Konstantinos Dimopoulos

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