“Ninja Pizza Girl” Is a Platformer About Bullying, Self-Esteem, and Pizza Delivery Ninjas
Ninja Pizza Girl sounds like it should be silly and fluffy–and don’t get me wrong, it is–but underneath the high-concept premise (underpaid ninja pizza delivery teens in the future!) is a surprisingly realistic take on teen culture and bullying. Gemma, who studied ninjutsu on Google, has to deliver pizzas for her dad’s local pizza parlor. Disparity Games gets a lot of mileage out of the weirdos who answer the door, based on their daughter’s real life experiences, but the enemies aren’t who you might expect.
Platformers typically let you shoot, jump on, or otherwise kill the peons in your path. Gemma can’t do any of the above. She can knock them over or leap over them, but her enemies are the teens working for the Megaco nearby and what she really wants is to impress them. Gemma can bounce back easily enough from a trip or faceplant, but if there’s another teenager watching, the world grays out as their laughter rings. Subject yourself to mockery too often and Gemma falls to her knees before struggling back onto her feet to try again. On the flipside, consistently hitting the jumps and collecting loot results in the world bursting into color, reflecting Gemma’s pride in her abilities in front of her peers.
Ninja Pizza Girl is, at its heart, an extraordinarily kind game. It manifests itself in small ways–the gameplay is extremely forgiving; missing a jump and falling results not in instant death but access to a lower level and easier path to the finish line–but the overall message of learning to ignore the taunting and pick yourself back up rings through every inch of what, in less thoughtful hands, might have been just another nonsense game.
Also, I seriously can’t believe that people answer the door naked. Put some pants on, dude.