Ninja Pizza Girl, an Indie game from 2015 developed by Disparity Games, takes place in a world of sky scrapers and pizza. You play as sixteen year old Gemma, delivering pizzas to customers for her dad’s small business. It is a side-on 2.5D platformer that’s challenging, fun, and set to spunky music.
The game is divided into sets made up of stages. The goal in most stages is to deliver a pizza to a customer before the pizza turns cold. There’s a timer for this in each stage set, usually set at two minutes. As you race against the clock, you will be performing acrobatics you would expect to in a platformer—running and jumping, doing wall jumps, poll swings, slides, drop kicks—and all the while, you must avoid obstacles and confront enemies. Getting stuck on obstacles, hurt by enemies, or losing your flow will slow you down, and with these stages’ timers, getting slowed down is very costly.
The fault that most consistently bogged me down was falling too far. To avoid being hurt by fall damage, you have to press the crouch key just before landing. Timing such a precise move can be difficult, and if you fail to pull it off, you’ll lose a few precious seconds as Gemma scrambles to get off the ground. There is little room for error.
Each stage has multiple pathways to the goal. Progressing down these paths reminded me of Sonic the Hedgehog. Often you’ll fall great distances, seeing but missing different ledges or paths as you plummet. You’ll run partway up a slope only to slide back down again, see ramps behind you that you can’t quite run up, and spy collectables and platforms in the air that you missed. These moments remind me of Sonic because they show you other areas and pathways you could be on, but backtracking to these areas isn’t easy or convenient. The best approach to completing any given stage always seems to be running and jumping as efficiently as possible towards the goal. The game’s construction and gameplay is not Sonic through and through, but this element of the stages’ structures is reminiscent of the blue hedgehog’s adventures.
Additionally, every stage features two varieties of collectables to pick up. One of them looks like a recycling symbol and the other like the little bar code you can scan with your iPhone. These collectables are used to purchase different outfits and “TLC” items (like chocolate or tea). You’ll want to use both when Gemma starts feeling ‘down’, something that can happen after you’ve played a few stages. The collectables you pick up also improve your letter-grade rating for the stage, so memorise their positioning if you want to attain the highest rankings.
The game is actually pretty difficult, surprising given its simple setup and premise. Within the first few stages, I ran out of time frequently. Several times in later stages, I whisked the pizza to the customer just as the last millisecond was ticking off the clock. The timer will be the greatest foe players will face. There’s no way to die, as, whenever Gemma is ‘down’, repeatedly pressing the space bar, or the “A” button, will revive her. The only way to fail a stage—receive an “F”—is if time runs out before you reach the goal.
Besides the clock, the enemies you will encounter in the stages are ninjas in the employ of Pizza Mega Corp, the big bad entity in the world of Ninja Pizza Girl. These ninjas drop down and trip Gemma up, as well as taunting her, pointing at her and saying things like “loser” or “you suck”. In later stages they even use phone cameras to take pictures of Gemma as she falls down, adding insult to injury.
Self-esteem issues are a big theme in the game’s story. Some of the customers Gemma visits are feeling down about something, like loneliness or some sort of phobia (like fear of heights, in a world that is all skyscrapers…). Fresh pizza delivered on time with Gemma’s customer-friendly attitude helps these depressed customers cheer up.
There are, however, a couple noticeable flaws with the game. As I noted above, whenever Gemma is down, by pressing either the space bar or the “A” button repeatedly, you bring her back up. A prompt for this appears each time she is down. When the timer runs out at the same time Gemma is downed, the prompt for getting back up appears along with the ‘game over’, or “F” screen. At this point, of course, you cannot hammer the space bar or “A” button to rise back up—it’s game over. Another problem is when characters referenced Gemma’s shorts, even when I had an outfit on that had no shorts (the default outfit has shorts, but some alternative ones do not). It might seem like a trivial complaint, but it breaks the feeling of immersion.
Despite the two problems noted above, and the admittedly lower level of polish for a ten dollar Indie game, I enjoyed delivering pizzas in this moderately challenging platformer set to funky music. Ninja Pizza Girl is simple and unpolished, but makes for some solid fun.