Hands-On: Ninjala is shaping up to be a multiplayer hit on Switch

One of the sleeper hits coming out of this year's E3 was Ninjala, a multiplayer brawler from GungHo Online Entertainment. The game popped up seemingly out of nowhere, but with a massive presence at the show in the form of a giant, loud booth complete with a huge monitor showing off the game in action, it definitely got people's attention. While I only played two rounds of the game myself, I got a good idea of what the upcoming title will offer when it launches next year on Nintendo Switch.

I Have Come Here to Chew Bubble Gum …

The premise of Ninjala is simple: beat the living crap out of your opponents. While the game will have multiple modes available at launch, the only playable mode in the E3 demo was the deathmatch-style free-for-all. In this mode, everyone starts out unarmed. But who needs weapons when you've got gum?! As silly as it sounds, gum is your best friend in Ninjala as it's the basis of your attacks. Blow as big a bubble as possible, and you'll have yourself a giant baseball bat that you can then use to pound the snot out of your rivals.

The action is fast and frenzied in Ninjala. The bigger the bubble you blow, the larger and more powerful your bat will be. That said, if you've got a dude advancing on you, it's best to blow a quick bubble and at least get a small bat out of it. The damage will be noticeably lower, but the trade-off is speed. The bigger the weapon, the slower your attacks. This creates a number of scenarios and strategies, and depending on your play style, you may or may not want to go big all the time.

In the infamous words of Roddy Piper, you're here to chew bubble gum and kick ass. Unlike Roddy's memorable line in They Live, you never run out of bubble gum in Ninjala — at least not in the mode that was being demoed at E3. If you're unhappy with your smaller-sized bat, you can blow a new bubble and get a stronger bat. You can also launch bubbles at your opponents and incapacitate them momentarily, opening the door for you to either retreat if you're hurting or go on the offensive while the other player is trying to wiggle out of that sticky situation.

Blowing a bubble and holding it gives you the ability to walk up walls. It's totally insane, but then this is a game where you play as kids who like to chew bubble gum and use baseball bats to beat the holy hell out of each other, so insanity seems to be a recurring theme. This adds more strategy to Ninjala. Maybe you need to get away from another player to survive. Perhaps you're attempting to lure someone into an ambush. Running up walls is a great way to distort other players' perception, at least briefly, as they run after you.

You won't just be using bats in Ninjala, though. While that's the only weapon that was available in the E3 demo, you'll have plenty of options for pummeling other players such as a yo-yo, which is sure to give you a more long-range edge, and even a skateboard.

Colorful Character Combat

The deathmatch mode in Ninjala is a lot of fun, and it's likely to be the mode players return to most. It'll feature eight-player mayhem, so expect a hectic, wild time. There will also be other modes at launch, and if they're even half as fun as what was playable at E3, this game has the potential to be the Switch's next big multiplayer hit. While specifics are currently under wraps, there will both free-for-all and team-based modes, and players will be able to take the fight online or locally.

In addition to multiplayer, there will also be single player modes. That's certainly a nice addition, but the big draw will undoubtedly be the local and online multiplayer components.

It goes without saying that the resemblance to Splatoon is obvious here. This game's visual aesthetic was clearly inspired in large part by Nintendo's popular multiplayer paint-shooter. That's not a bad thing, though — sure, Ninjala looks a lot like Splatoon, but it plays vastly different. Both games are fast-paced and easy to jump into, but they each offer their own unique brand of cheery multiplayer madness.

I'm not going to tell you that Ninjala is going to dethrone Splatoon, but I also won't say that it can't, or that GungHo's action multiplayer title won't at least keep up with and stand side-by-side with Nintendo's shooter. And if what I played of it is any indication, it has huge potential to be any Switch owner's go-to game.

There's still some time before we'll get to see the finished version of Ninjala, but what's there so far is highly entertaining, and if you're a sucker for colorful, character-based multiplayer games, you're definitely going to want to keep an eye on this one. GungHo hasn't announced an exact launch date, but Ninjala is currently scheduled to launch exclusively on the Switch sometime in 2019.