What could you possibly get accomplished in 10 seconds? How could a game work when levels are only 10 seconds long? Why are we asking questions we already know the answers to?
Come on, guys… It’s 2016, and we know that a wide variety of gaming conventions and genres that sound far fetched actually turn out to be wonderful experiences, and that is no different with 10 Second Ninja X. Just look at games like Half Minute Hero, Katamari Damacy, and Mr. Mosquito, just to name a few. Weird or far-fetched games/premises that turned out to be hits in some shape or form. Four Circle Interactive took the original 10 Second Ninja and added an X on the end. That’s all they needed…
…OK. That’s not all they did. They revamped the graphics. They added unlockables, minigames, collectibles, and costumes. They included reworked versions of the original levels and added in over 50 new ones. There’s a funnier story as well, so you’re no longer fighting a robotic Hitler. As you can see from the photo above, you’re putting the age old question of “Ninjas vs. Pirates – who wins?” to the test. This is a reworking/sequel many other companies can look to for guidance.
The whole story on display here is that you’re the ninja hero, relaxing on a nice day with your birdy pals when pirate Greatbeard attacks and captures you to put your through speed challenges to see just how fast you are while giving you a chance to save yourself. Because he doesn’t like you. For some reason. Oh, and he’s imprisoned your bird friends in robots a la Sonic and Dr. Robotnik. Armed only with a sword, 3 ninja stars, and a double jump, you must quickly dismantle all robots to succeed.
As mentioned, the whole idea is to beat each level within 10 seconds. How quickly and efficiently you do this determines your score at the end via the potentially too-famous-at-this-point-but-still-works-really-well 3-star system. Once completed, you’re treated to your stats that tell you just how far off you were from reaching the next star, how quickly you won this round, and how fast you’ve done it in your best attempt. A quick button press allows you to either move on or retry the level (even during the run if you mess up), depending on your drive to obtain perfection. Load times all around are lightning quick, so the action on all accounts is just as advertised. One thing I really appreciated was the fact that the timer doesn’t start the moment you start the level, it only starts once you initially move. So you could feasibly map out your plan of attack for hours before really getting down to business. Whether you execute it well enough is a whole different story.
I really enjoyed the sound effects in the game. The running sounds the little guy makes are super cute and the jumping/sword noises were pretty satisfying. I’d sometimes find myself running back and forth around the ship just to hear him hopping and tip-toeing all around. The music is pretty good, too. From upbeat rock jams to some more drum beats, each area has a nice tone to it.
The brightness and shine to the graphics on display went down really well with me. Everything was vibrant and appealing to look at, including the simple character models and animations all around. The cutscenes, though not many were a nice touch and the way everything looks really helps with the humor throughout the game.
Even though the story isn’t a major undertaking, because obviously, the puzzles are the main attraction, I really enjoyed the little bits we got. The characters interject themselves sparingly, but when they do, they usually hit with the humor intended, and the more you explore the castle-like ship, the more little quick visual jokes you’ll find. And the one running joke thread throughout is a nice little touch. I won’t spoil it for you, but I found it to be a good one. My only “complaint” would be that we didn’t get enough story or character interactions for my tastes.
Make no mistake, though, 10 Second Ninja X is no easy game. In fact, it’s a pretty hard one. Sure, you can manage 1 star on every level just by winning with .0000001 seconds left, but in order to fully move on you need at least 2 stars in each level to eventually unlock the next group. I can tell you with great sadness/anger that being quick enough to reach 2 stars was really tough a lot of the time. Not tough in the “bad” sense, but in the overall scheme of puzzle games, especially times ones such as this, you don’t have a lot of time to reflect on your mistakes, and that can often times cause you to continually repeat them in the split seconds between restarts. You’re so amped up thinking you could and should have done better you may find yourself restarting so quickly to prove to yourself that you can do it you eventually end up either making the exact same mistakes or even worse ones. The precision needed to complete the levels properly can many times be great. Take a breather. Plan your attack, and practice it. Otherwise, you may wind up with a shattered controller if you’re that kind of player.
On that same note, playing the game can certainly get frustrating from a control standpoint. Sometimes you’re moving so fast you can lose yourself in the level whether it be just from sheer speed or by blending in with the carnage you’re causing by releasing your pals. You can easily miss jumps, again, whether it’s because you’re going too fast, or you get lost in the shuffle. The sad part is, you can’t afford to slow down because the tiniest stoppage could destroy your opportunity at the proper amount of stars.
There’s plenty of things to unlock, too, from not only costumes but also a “hidden” minigame that “doesn’t exist” anymore. Explore the ship, you’ll be glad you did.
When it comes to the differences between each version, there’s not too many. However, there are a couple. No surprise, the Vita doesn’t have the full graphical quality as it’s home console brethren, but it’s not a slouch. Just as vibrant and nice to look at, it lacks the extra panache like the robot explosions. No way a deal breaker, and even better because if you buy the PS4 version, you also get the Vita version. And while the PS4 and XB1 versions look a bit better, those versions both have random frame lockups, whether in levels or the traveling the ship. Again, nothing that denotes a deal breaker, but still noticeable, so keep that in mind. Otherwise, they’re all worthy.
Sadly, there’s no Platinum Trophy on the PlayStation systems (and it’s a combined list). There’s 12 Achievements/Trophies to unlock, and you’ll unlock most by the time you beat the game. They’re not all simple, so strap in. Not incredibly difficult, but getting 300 stars will certainly be without a ton of practice.
There’s a lot to like with 10 Second Ninja X, that’s for sure. The experience doesn’t last a very long time (whether by skill or by design), but if you want to 100% the game, it’ll last you enough to realize it was well worth your money. The likeable characters and quick levels are a highlight, and the humor adds the cherry on top.
10 Second Ninja X is available now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4/PS Vita, and Steam for $9.99. Copies of the game were provided by Curve Digital for the purpose of this review.