Lately, I’ve had a thing for platformers. I was excited to try out 10 Second Ninja X, the sequel to 10 Second Ninja, because it’s done something unique with a genre that’s been around for nearly as long as video games themselves. Each level, of which there are 60 new and 40 old, must be completed in 10 seconds or less. Sound easy? Well, it’s not. Not at all.
10 Second Ninja X is about precision and efficiency. Or, as developer Four Circle Interactive described it, “A rock-hard platformer along the lines of Super Meat Boy – but with the added pressure of time.” You, a ninja, only have a katana, three shuriken and your wits to eliminate all of the enemy robots in a given level. Every movement, every jump, every swing of the sword must be absolutely spot on.
Precision is one thing, but with the added need for efficiency of movement due to the severe time constraints of each level, 10 Second Ninja X actually becomes a puzzle-platformer of sorts. Part of the secret sauce is to plan your route, step by step, before starting. Each level begins in camera mode so that you can pan around, see what you’re up against, and how best to tackle it. Then, after restarting, you can pan around again to analyze what you did wrong, what you did right, and so forth. Rinse and repeat.
At first, this game is a little deceptive. The levels are small and there’s only a handful of enemies, so it can’t be that tough, right? I blazed through the first few levels quickly, relishing in the nearly non-existent load times, without paying much attention to the one-out-of-three star rating I’d be given upon completion of each level. When I finished the first stage in what I thought was a relatively short time, I was pumped for stage two. Not so fast. To move on to the next group of levels, I needed a minimum of twenty stars. I would now have to replay the first stage, trying to fine tune my movements, perfect my double-jumps and sword swings, and improve my shuriken throwing enough to get the additional six stars I needed. This is the exact moment when 10 Second Ninja X started to lose me.
The formula ends up something like this: Replay, die. Replay, die. Replay, too slow. Replay. Replay. Over and over and over again until you can shave that 0.25 seconds off of your time, just to get one more precious star. This is all done while listening to the same tired quasi-EDM, guitar mix that also repeats over, and over, and over. With my frustration growing rapidly, I muted the TV to save what was left of my sanity and dignity.
I poured hours and hours into being the fastest ninja in the west, but to no avail. Instead, I was left with little enjoyment, plenty of frustrated expletives, a strong desire to defenestrate my TV and numerous hours I’d like to have back. It seems ridiculous to create such a brutal, skill-based barrier that prevents you from playing the full game. Why not let me continue on to the next stage, where I can further cut my ninja teeth and fully enjoy all of the content, only coming back to perfect my performance(s) when I so choose? Being forced into this unnecessary repetition not only hurt my ability to learn and improve, but it also caused me to walk away in disgust with no desire to return, having not even played the game in its entirety.