If 10 Second Ninja X was crack I’d be an addict. The premise is simple: you have ten seconds to complete each stage. The early stages are quite easy to complete, but as the game progresses things get significantly more difficult and players will have to start thinking outside of the box. That’s not to say the game is ever impossible or unfair, in fact I believe with a little patients any player should be capable of completing it. It’s those of you who want to claim those ever elusive three star ratings that will be in for the most relentless ten seconds of your lives… over and over again.
I think the thing that surprised me most in 10 Second Ninja was the fact that it has a story and decent characters. The story itself is simple. Captain Greatbeard, the game’s evil pirate antagonist, has captured a little blue ninja who happens to be known for his speed. The over the top captain is so annoyed at the ninja’s speed that he has designed a series of courses, each to be completed in ten second or less. While the story itself is nothing to hang your hat on the writing is brilliant, witty, and at times hilarious. The captain does most of the talking, in fact the ninja is completely silent, but there are a handful of other characters who join in the conversations every now and then.
As with most smaller titles, this game is only aiming to do one thing, at least gameplaywise. In this case that one thing is to make the best possible 2D action-platformer contained within a ten second time frame. They absolutely nailed it and the result is an addictive, high-speed game in which you guide the exuberant protagonist, the little blue ninja, through around one hundred stages. The controls are very responsive and the framerate is solid, which is essential in a title where every millisecond counts. The ninja begins every stage with his trusty sword, three shurikens, and the ability to double jump. The goal of each stage is to destroy all of the robots on screen before your ten seconds is up. If you just want to beat each stage and don’t really care about your time or star rating that’s fine, but if you want to get the best score possible you’ll have to plan out your run and make every shuriken count in the hope of shaving precious seconds off your completion time.
There are multiple groups of stages for you to take on with each group becoming increasingly more difficult than the last. Each group takes place in a different environment to set them apart: some are colourful and bright, while others resemble a very clean white laboratory type settings. In order to unlock a new group of stages you must obtain a certain number of stars, for example, to unlock the second group you must earn twenty stars in the first group. This means while it’s okay to only earn one star on the difficult stages you will have to aim for two, or even three, stars on the stages you feel you’re better at to ensure you can progress to the next group. Each time you earn enough stars to go to the next group you’re pulled back to the ship so Captain Greatbeard can speak to you, and call you names like ‘Bobblehead’.
The game design is excellent, yet subtle. For example, 10 Second Ninja teaches you how to play the game without ever explicitly doing so or using words. Instead it provides you with ample opportunities to learn how its different systems work by yourself. In the third group of stages the game introduces a new type of robot, which is surrounded by a shield. Instead of telling you how to defeat this new enemy it simply places you behind one meaning you have to go past it to get to the rest of the robots. The first time I tried to go past it I hit it with my sword and was electrocuted, so when I respawned I tried throwing a shuriken and that worked. The game subtly thought me that next time I saw one of these shielded robots I would have to use one of my shurikens on it, yet it did that by putting me in a situation in which I was forced to learn by myself not by explicitly telling me what to do.
Its graphics are as good as you’d expect a simple game like this to have, but its art direction is where it really shines. Everything is really bright and colourful, but at the same time it’s a very clear, cartoony style that doesn’t try to bite off more than it can chew. The sound it also excellent. The score is made up of a variety of instruments containing fast percussion beats interjected with some electric guitar riffs, and what sounds like a keyboard, to really make you feel the pressure as things heat up. Outside of the score there’s a bevy of sound affects ranging from the hissing sound of a shuriken sailing through the air to the crash of the ninja’s katana destroying a robot. There’s no voice acting but the characters do make funny sounds as their dialog boxes appear on screen, which adds to the cartoony atmosphere.
If this game is crack, and if I am an addict, I’m sad to say I’ve spent every day, since the first time I played it, chasing the dragon. That’s the first problem I have with this game: while it initially gave me a great sense of triumph as I chased those three star ratings the sense began to grow stale the more I played and the more common three stars became. That’s not to say the sense never returned, in fact every now and again as I achieved three stars on a particularly challenging stage the triumphant feelings would return, those moments just become few and far between as you improve at the game. The other issue I have is the game losing connectivity to the PlayStation Network. In order to regain access you have to reboot the game, but if you’re unaware that you have lost access you’ll lose any progress you made while offline, which happened me the first time I played. I’m sure this issue will be patched very soon.
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