Pockie Ninja II Social is a Facebook-based game by Game321 loosely based on the popular Naruto anime. It’s been available since July of this year, but seems to have been undergoing an active advertising campaign on the open Web recently.
Pockie Ninja II Social is split into two main components — building a “ninja village” and working through a linear series of story quests. An energy system (here called “Chakra”) throttles play sessions across both modes, but early in the game the player levels up at such a rate that it isn’t an issue for quite some time, allowing for fairly lengthy play sessions.
The village-building component takes place from a side-on view rather than the more common isometric perspective. Players are invited to build a selection of different structures via a series of quests, and then make use of these buildings to provide income, resources and ninjas to add to the player’s forces. Ninjas that the player has recruited — either acquired via quests or purchases using the “Ninja School” facility — wander around the village aimlessly, and must be picked up and put into certain buildings to produce money and resources.
Meanwhile, the separate “story” component sees players working their way through a linear series of battles using the ninjas they have recruited. Each episode of the story consists of several battles in which the player must lay out their recruited ninjas on a grid and then use them to defeat the enemies on the other side of the board. Aesthetically, this component of the game resembles Robot Entertainment’s excellent mobile and PC game Hero Academy, but many players will be very disappointed to discover that there is seemingly no way to take direct control of one’s forces — the only option initially is to click “Auto Battle” and watch it unfold, though later the ability to influence the battle with consumable items opens up, and at level 15 the facility to take manual control finally becomes available.
While it is good that the ability to manually control battle becomes available after a while, it is much too late. There is considerable crossover between fans of anime and the “core gamer” demographic, meaning that there are a large number of players who would feel confident taking direct control from the outset. The game does not make it particularly clear about the level 15 milestone, either — the only mention of the manual combat option is in the help menu, which many players may miss entirely.
This isn’t the only issue with Pockie Ninja II Social. A more serious issue is the rather poor job that has been done on the in-game text, which has presumably been translated from Japanese. Instructions are badly or ungrammatically phrased and at times use completely different words to those seen on the interface, and the game does an appalling job of explaining how some of its more complex mechanics work. Several quests introduce these mechanics — usually involving upgrading ninjas — by walking the player through how to do something, but fail to mention exactly why they are doing these things, or what benefit it offers. The “Reset Aptitude” option, for example, is completely bewildering, and there is no clear explanation of what this does or why anyone would want to do it anywhere in the game — even having completed the quest that shows you how to do it.
Social features for the game include the usual “visit friends and help” mechanic along with the ability for friends who are level 15 or higher to invade each other’s villages — though a built-in mechanic prevents friends more than 15 levels apart from each other from invading one another to keep things fair. Players may also sometimes recruit friends to provide assistance in story battles, but the game is still mostly a single-player affair.
For monetization, the game makes use of a hard currency known as Gold. This may be used to bypass various wait times and purchase premium items. There is also the option to use Gold to purchase a “VIP” membership to the game on a 31 day, 91 day or one-year basis — this provides additional benefits such as being able to harvest all production buildings at once and attaining a discount on hard currency goods. Players may also opt in to a “financial plan” based around several of the Naruto characters, in which they gain periodic income and eventually a gold rebate significantly bigger than their initial investment. This is an interesting idea, but like so much else in the game is explained inadequately to players — and isn’t a cheap thing to accidentally purchase, either.
Despite its numerous flaws, Pockie Ninja II Social has been performing well so far, with over a million monthly active users at the time of writing. Although it is clearly popular, however, it is difficult to recommend at present simply because of these many flaws. There are some interesting ideas on display, for sure, making it worth a look, but there are just as many annoyances that risk putting new players off before they get to “the interesting bit,” as it were — not to mention the fact that it somewhat underuses its Naruto license, with little more than the most basic lip service paid to the long-running anime’s characters and plot.
Pockie Ninja II Social currently has 1,100,000 monthly active users, 440,000 weekly active users and 160,000 daily active users. Follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for social games and developers.
Worth a look, but still too many flaws and issues to be worthy of unreserved recommendation.