Indie developer Disparity Games delivers something hot and tasty to gamers on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Mac and PC
Ninja Pizza Girl is a neat title. It’s eye-catching, humorous and oh so very indie. But Disparity Games’ second release isn’t really about any of the things in its title. Its protagonist is a ninja pizza girl, but the game stands out more for its take on life as a teenager than it does for Shuriken or extra cheese.
In a future where blokes on scooters can no longer cut it, Gemma is a ninja pizza girl doing deliveries for her family’s pizza shop. Players guide her through a slightly sci-fi city, running, jumping and cartwheeling over ledges with one goal: deliver the pizza, and deliver it hot.
The levels aren’t brutally hard. Missing a jump just means taking a different route, and there’s no such thing as a health bar. It’s an accessible and friendly game, with an upbeat, thumping soundtrack punctuated by comic book cutscenes that are full of real character.
More experienced players need not fear, however. Whilst the multi-storied levels make it impossible to die, they also allow some routes to be better than others, and a carefully timed button push is needed to land smoothly, flip over obstacles, wall-jump and slide as required – it’s reminicent of the Mirror’s Edge mobile game. And despite the welcoming set up, getting an A-graded time still requires plenty of skill and practice.
But on to those teenage tribulations. Disparity Games is a Queensland outfit consisting of ex-AAA developers Nicole and Jason Stark, with added input and influence from their four children (daughter Raven is behind the game’s comic-book style illustrations). It’s that family origin that gives Ninja Pizza Girl its soul.
It was a simple question from Jason Stark to his daughters that changed the course of the entire game. Their response to “what scares you the most?” transformed Gemma’s enemies from the usual robots or monsters into a very real villain – other teenagers. They taunt and tease Gemma, pushing her to the ground and draining all the colour from her world.
That little tweak from physical to mental damage doesn’t change the gameplay – you can run and jump around without a second thought – but what’s left of my teenage self certainly took note. That is how it was. Sometimes it felt like other people had beaten you with nothing but a few nasty words and an unkind glance. Sometimes it sucked. Sometimes all the colour disappeared.
Luckily Ninja Pizza Girl is also about overcoming all that junk. About having fun; about being there for your friends and family. And about doing that crappy job really well. Gemma is an unusually normal gaming protagonist – not royalty, not the chosen one or a superhero, but just a teenager doing her thing.
As a result the game feels very genuine, and it’s pretty funny to boot. For those who find that little something within themselves that resonates with Gemma (and the Stark girls, by extension), Ninja Pizza Girl offers an experience that isn’t often seen in video games, much to our industry’s disservice.
The game is out now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC and Mac. Read a full interview with the developer in Episode 8 of Grab It.