August 5, 2014 9:00 AM | Lena LeRay
Imagine being a teenage ninja, delivering pizza for your father's pizza shop while all the other teenage ninjas work for a big pizza corporation. You're the odd girl out, trying to do her best while the other ninjas laugh at how uncool you are, trip you up, and throw things at you. All you want is to do your job, hopping from building to building to get your pizza delivered, but the "cool" ninjas make your life difficult. They're not going to hurt you, not physically, but if you're not careful, they'll wear you down. That's the premise behind Ninja Pizza Girl, a platformer that aims to be welcoming to all. New to platformers? That's fine. Been playing platformers since you were three? There's something for you, too. Minorities? They're invited, too. Just because the other ninjas laugh doesn't mean it isn't still cool to be a ninja.
Ninja Pizza Girl's story and its goal of being welcoming to all come through in the mechanics in a couple of ways. One is that the levels are designed such that as less skilled players make mistakes, they fall down to easier, slower-paced tracks. The platforming mechanics is inspired by Mirror's Edge and Sonic the Hedgehog, with the intent that players of all skill levels will be able to enjoy the games but have incentive to get better so they can see everything the levels have to offer.
The other big mechanic is that instead of health, the player has a limited amount of mental stamina. The more mockery the main character must endure, the darker the world gets and she can fall into a depressed state and be unable to continue. If she performs well, however, the world grows brighter and shinier, reflecting joy taken in her abilities.
Inclusion is another theme the developers plan to encourage in the story. Ninja Pizza Girl was brought to IndieGames' attention by a reader who in her own words is a "semi-closeted trans woman" who jumped at the chance to have her post-transition self included in the game as a backer reward. She says the developers were very receptive to the idea as a way to increase the positive diversity represented within the game. Stretch goals for the Kickstarter also include greater focus on making the game more accessible to persons with disabilities.
Developer Disparity Games has two full-time members, a husband and wife with AAA game development experience and four kids whose experiences with bullying have greatly influenced the game. Among the three part-time members of the Ninja Pizza Girl team is one of their daughters, who is responsible for the game's cartoony art.
At time of this writing, the Ninja Pizza Girl Kickstarter has about a week to go and has raised approximately 2/3 of its $35,000 AUD goal. It's already been Greenlit on Steam and will be available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and WiiU, with the developers exploring the possibility of PlayStation and Xbox releases as well. There is a Windows demo available if you want to give it a try.