The record will show that I'm a pretty big fan of ninjas, dinosaurs, and things that are a ninja or dinosaur while also being something else, so it should come as no surprise that I've been a fan of Jason Horn's Ninjasaur
ever since I picked up a minicomic a few years ago at HeroesCon. It's a story of martial arts action, time travel and horrifying consequences that's mostly driven by the title character's laziness, and Horn's knack for cartoon comedy makes it great.
Now, though, Ninjasaur
has made the leap from minicomic to webcomic to a dedicated app for iOS devices, and the way it's built has made it one of the most interesting comics apps to come along in a while.
First, the obvious: The Ninjasaur
app will set you back a cool 99 cents in the iTunes store in exchange for a 26-page comic about Ninjasaur fighting Professor Deadbones and his super-sciencey ray-guns. That alone should make it worth checking out if you're a fan -- less than a buck for 26 pages of comics is a pretty solid deal, especially when it's an indie book -- in this case, there's a little more to it.
The story has a feature called Breakdown, where you can check out different stages of the process as you read. That's not an entirely new idea -- being able to check out various stages of production is one of the things I really liked about the Double Feature Comics app -- but it's implemented in a really intuitive way. A two-finger vertical swipe (not a sex term) fades the page from finished art to inks, then back to Horn's rough pencils, and it's really fun to just fade back and forth to see the process.
The only thing that doesn't fade out is the lettering, so that you can read the entire story at any stage of production. I kind of wish it did, though -- as you can see above, Horn does balloon placement on his layouts, and being able to contrast his hand lettering with the finished product would've been fun.
As nice as that is, though, it's pretty standard stuff. What isn't is that once you get to the end of the adventure, the story continues into a little interactive game, where Ninjasaur battles a swarm of time-traveling enemies with shuriken:
As an experiment into what digital comics can be and do that print comics can't, it's a really interesting step, and it's nice to see Horn's cartoony versions of cavemen, centurions and hoverboard-riding future dudes in motion. I'm not going to lie, though, the game could stand to be a little more polished. It takes a minute to figure out where the right places to tap and swipe are, and there doesn't actually seem to be a point to it.
I'm not sure if I just didn't play it long enough or what, but I'm pretty sure that you just play it 'til you eventually let three guys through. There's no real incentive for victory, although when you lose, you're rewarded with a pretty cool splash page:
Still, as a bonus feature for a comic that costs a buck, it's fun to have, and it's an interesting step. It makes me wonder if this is just Horn testing the waters and if he intends to have these little mini-games that you'd have to progress through to continue the story, and that's pretty intriguing stuff. As much as I tend to hate anything that gets between me and actually reading my comics, it's still a novel enough idea that I want to see how it'd play out.
Whether it's going to become part of the story or just an interesting experiment in digital, it's still fun stuff and it's well worth checking out. To pick it up (and read a ton of free Ninjasaur
strips), check out Ninjasaur.com