10 Second Ninja X tells you just about everything you need to know about the game in its title. The story is about as quick and nonsensical as one would expect, but the game itself is a flurry of reflex-testing goodness that is addictive as its is frustrating.
Our antagonist is a man named Captain Greatbeard - an odd enough fellow who tells his computer that he loves him/her/it right off of the bat while setting the stage for our hero's adventures. He has kidnapped your forest friends and set up a series of maddeningly difficult stages where you must platform up, over and around a variety of death traps while killing robots and freeing your friends - all within ten seconds per stage. If that sounds like a lot going on in short bursts of action - well, that is because it is.
The stages are littered with things that will kill you. Electricity, spikes - the usual really for this kind of precision platforming fare. It immediately reminded me of Super Meat Boy with its punishing double jumps and need for perfect timing mixed with bright, cartoon graphics. However, that comparison does not completely work. While most of the levels in Super Meat Boy tend to be short affairs that occupy roughly one screen of space, there is greater variety in the running and platforming aspects. However, 10 Second Ninja also uses the mostly-one-screen format to get around things, but with fewer abilities to platform, he has to do more than just reach an exit - he needs to destroy the robots on the stage as well.
That is where things get really intense. Your little ninja has two attacks - a melee sword swipe and a trio of shirken he can toss each stage. The shirken are invaluable for shaving precious seconds off as they are fast, they can tear through multiple enemies that happen to be in a line and can eliminate opponents that are either impossible to reach and slash or just for eliminating enemies on the opposite side of the screen. But, you only get three per stage whether your throw hits or misses, so you need to learn to throw them with deadly precision.
To the credit of 10 Second Ninja X, the controls are tight and just as responsive as you would imagine them to be. Whether you are timing a double jump with a shirken toss at the height of your jump's apex or running off of a ledge and then jumping mid-descent to avoid the electric current running overhead, I never felt that the game's controls led to my deaths. And there are many, many deaths. However, the game encourages trial and error. You will fail, but you will also want to shave off precious seconds and earn more stars to unlock more zones. The recipe works because the game's stages are small, fast and furious. If you do something wrong? You're out five or six seconds the majority of the time. I have played plenty of platforming games that punish you thirty seconds or two minutes in, and this is nothing like that.
There is also a puzzle-like element to the gameplay due to the robots that need destroying. The development team gets kudos for managing to even take similarly designed stages and making them feel unique from one another just due to a couple of small twists. There is also a Sonic the Hedgehog like aesthetic here that I can't let go without mentioning it. Between the vivid colors, happy little forest critters and early in the first stage the way Captain Greatbeard came hovering down in what looked like a giant Pokeball that reminded me way too much of Doctor Eggman (and the fact that my lil' ninja is blue to boot).
|It's not just me, is it? Bad guy brothers separated at birth perhaps?|
Those amused observations aside, 10 Second Ninja X is a lot of fun - but I recommend it in small doses. The fact of the matter is, this is a tough game - it will induce some rage. It is also a highly repetitive game as the stages become different and more challenging, but the core gameplay never really evolves in any meaningful way. The art direction and sound effects work well and the gameplay is brisk and challenging yet rewarding as well. If you enjoy these types of platforming games, then you'll spend way more than ten seconds with this ninja.
Article by Chris H.