10 Second Ninja X Preview:
It was midnight when I sat down to try our preview build of 10 Second Ninja X, developer Four Circle Interactive’s lightning-fast platformer that hits next month. I intended to give it a quick go and get a feel for it before turning in for an early night. But it was at 5am, as I finally turned the console off with shaking hands and bright ninjas running around behind my eyelids, that I realized I had a problem.
10 Second Ninja X is simple enough to get to grips with. You’re a speedy ninja tasked with clearing hundreds of stages by destroying well placed robots in each of them. You can run up to them and slash them with your sword, or you can hurl Shurikens at distant ones. The hook is that you’ll only get the titular ten seconds to clear each stage, so efficiency is an absolute priority. Working out optimal routes and knowing exactly when to throw a Shuriken – even if the target isn’t even that far away – is key here, and provides a great satisfaction when you get a stage down. It reminds me of Dustforce – a game where you cleared levels full of dirt, trash and dust and tried grabbing the high score as you did so.
Of course, simply clearing a level isn’t enough for the sadistic minds over at Four Circle. Upon completion of my very first level I was presented with a single measly star (out of a possible three). Anyone who’s played Angry Birds, Cut the Rope or their ranking-obsessed kin will know the draw of getting all three stars. Initially I couldn’t score a single triple, but – my pride in my platforming prowess unwilling to concede – I slugged away at learning the nuances of 10 Second Ninja X. I couldn’t move on from any stage until I had bested its utmost challenge, and best them I eventually did. Over the course of a couple of hours I worked tirelessly on my routes and really mastered the controls for this tight platformer, and had an absolute blast doing so.
I often became flustered and mashed the wrong buttons, threw too many ninja stars or accidentally reset during a great run, but these slip ups were down to my own sub-par dexterity – a deficiency I overcame as the night wore on. By the end of my session I was smooth (at least at the first batch of levels, anyway). The smart control mapping and ridiculous speed made me really feel like a ninja, too, much more so than other similarly ninja-named games have. I’ve attached a video of me clearing a ‘marathon’ version of the first ten levels – a gauntlet that ranks you on your ability to complete stages back to back without fault – and I have to say, it might be my greatest gaming accomplishment to date. I whooped and cheered when I finally clocked a flawless run. The fact that this effort took two nights and nearly 7 hours to perfect speaks volumes about 10 Second Ninja’s addictive nature and brutal – but satisfying – challenge.
Resets are mercifully brief, with you zapping back to the beginning of the stage in the blink of an eye. It’s this lack of any noticeable loading time that lends 10SNX’s true drug-like qualities. There’s room for experimentation and a healthy amount of trial and error because you’re never punished for it. The (cliché) ‘easy to pick up, difficult to master’ adage works perfectly here, and the game works hard to make attaining that mastery as unimpeded an experience as possible.
I’ve had a silly amount of fun with this game already, and I plan to continue doing so as I work on besting everything it has to offer me. It boasts an adorable story and funny characters between the gameplay that are incredibly charming, but nothing – load times least of all – ever gets in the way of 10 Second Ninja X being the sadistic and addictive platformer it strives to be.
It launches July 19th. From what I’ve played so far, I recommend grabbing it as soon as is humanly possible.
Watch our “10 Second Ninja X” PREVIEW VIDEO: