Taken from the App store: “Based on medical illustrations, 3D images, radiographs and CT, MRI images, Anatomy Ninja is an anatomy game that will help beginners as well as advanced players perfect their lower limb anatomy knowledge.”
IMAIOS SAS is a French software creation company focusing exclusively on Anatomy related topics, although rarely are any games. Their largest app, E-Anatomy, is an atlas of the body which they claim is “award winning”, although they don’t mention any of those awards on their website. Their e-MRI course has won a few awards they tout, however, such as the Cum Laude Award from the European Congress of Radiology and the Prix Herman Fishgold from Paris. Anatomy Ninja: Lower Limb, has not won any awards, but it is the only “game” they have on their app store (although they do have multiple choice quizzes for medical exam prep, and many medical atlas apps).
You’re a ninja throwing shurikens at body parts that give you points. What’s not to like?
For those that don’t know, I’ll grade this app on 3 distinct areas:
-Design (Good to look at, easy to use)
-Fun (Does it feel like a chore to do, or like a game)
-Worth (Does it help you do the thing it says it will help you do)
Obviously not everything worth doing is fun, not everything fun is easy to do, and not everything pretty is substantive.
Anatomy Ninja has the look and feel of an early 2000s flash game. The original art is rough, and intermixed with assets that clearly don’t fit the style. The cartoon images tend to be more confusing than anything, and aren’t helpful when really trying to learn the objects, and many of the design elements are just shy of seeming polished and professional. In addition to the design of the ninjas, some of the hitboxes on the objects are very small, leading to some aggravating “but I totally hit there” moments. Then, when they tell you what it was that you missed, they don’t show you the picture with the information, instead putting an image of a ninja facing away from you. It would be more helpful if they would have the image next to the description of the item, as it would enhance the memorization better.
But all of that is worth it for the completely bizarre experience that is the theme and actual medical scans. The annoyingly pervasive japanese style background music, the cartoon blood and ninja stars, the progress bars being bamboo and skulls. It’s completely ridiculous, and it makes up for most of the negative moments.
For all of that, there is one piece of design even more bizarre. Animated, internal scans of the body which move down the limb allowing you to click on the piece of the body the game is asking for. It blew my mind the first time I saw it, as it was so far removed from the cute ninjas that you were fighting at the beginning of the game, and it added a level of applied challenge that I didn’t anticipate. The game goes from cartoon, to model, to animated scan, which truly tests if you know what you are looking at.
How Bizarre. Design: B
There’s a lot to be said about perception. Tapping the parts of the body and getting points: Meh. Throwing ninja stars at parts of the body and getting points: Amazing. The theme, the ability to slash with a sword for broad selections or pinpoint with a shuriken, the annoying background music, the “boss” levels, it all comes together like an 80’s kung-fu movie. Nothing about it should be any better than any other 80’s movie, but something about it just works.
This is enhanced by the elements of gamification used to push you along. Your overall progress in each level is kept up with bamboo progress bars which grow as you find parts of the body, and your accuracy is improved thanks to a constantly depleting health bar circling a ninja skull. In addition to these, there is the typical star ranking system which encourages you to go back and perfect a level.
All of this doesn’t stop some of the frustration. Weird hit boxes, bad explanation of what it is that you missed and why you missed it, as well as confusing perspectives, do make some of the later levels less fun than the earlier ones.
Paging Dr. McNinja. Fun: A-
I am not a medical student, nor have I taken any anatomy courses in high school or college. For me this app was jumping into a subject I knew next to nothing about, and, after a month, I feel like my knowledge has increased tremendously. It was a fun, engaging, and competitive way to learn where the parts of the lower limbs are. But that was it. I didn’t learn what they did, why they are where they are, or how they all interact with each other. Yes, if you missed the part of the body it gave you a small text, wordy paragraph about the part, but these rarely helped me due to the poor writing style and lack of original context. At times I felt like this would be a better review tool, rather than a teacher.
It’s a sparring partner, not a master: B-
Anatomy Ninja runs into the same problems that many “education” apps do. It’s less for teaching, more for reviewing. But where other apps fall into the pitfall of basic testing, Anatomy Ninja tries to engage with its users using a theme and method that not only makes sense, but is fun. You’ll get more out of an anatomy textbook, but you won’t have as much fun doing it.
Plus it’s free. Conclusion: B