In all likelihood, the Tenchu series will mean very little to most of you. Although, it's been sneaking around and stealthily picking off gamers since way back in 1998 when it first appeared on the PlayStation, the ninja franchise has only made one other appearance on a Nintendo console, with the diabolically bad and quickly forgotten DS offering, Tenchu: Dark Secret.
So, for newcomers, here's a bit of background. The series' basic gameplay sees you taking control of Rikimaru or Ayame, a ninja and a kunoichi (a female ninja) respectively, as they tiptoe around feudal Japan slaughtering enemies as stealthily as possible. The idea is to hide in the shadows, sneak up on enemies and despatch them via a one-hit 'quick time event', without them alerting their compadres.
The formula has changed very little since the franchise started, with familiar foes and the same set of items available to help you (shuriken, a bamboo pipe, a fishing rod, a sword and so on) and fans of the series will find few surprises here. Well, other than the fact that, unlike the last few outings, this one isn't half bad.
Whereas the series had come off the rails thanks to fiddly controls, a lack of atmosphere and some tired level design, Shadow Assassins manages to recapture some of that original Tenchu magic. Creeping around, snuffing out candles and snapping enemies' necks with the flick of your Remote is by and large really good fun and the set pieces are well thought out. You'll find yourself in a room with seven or eight bad guys to get rid of. Figuring out how to go about the task without being detected and then following your plan through is hugely satisfying when you get it right.
While we said that it's rewarding when you get things right, get it wrong and things can get hugely frustrating. Tenchu has always been about 'die and re-try' gameplay and you'll be going back over the same section time after time to perfect it. Annoyingly, you'll die far too often because of cumbersome controls or poor collision detection.
Shadow Assassins will find plenty of fans and offers some solid-but-silly old-school thrills.
But while it certainly helps fill a niche in the Wii library we can't help but ignore the distinct whiff of bargain-bin gaming here.