By: Brian Gunn
10 Second Ninja X is the second game from Four Circle Interactive. This fast-paced puzzle action game asks you to beat levels in 10 seconds, but is it worth investing your precious seconds in?
Given the time limits on each map, precise and easy-to-master controls are needed. Like Super Meat Boy before it, 10 Second Ninja X asks you to do many things quickly upon pain of death or failure with simple controls that can work for those just barely finishing a level as well as those chasing the high scores.
There’s running, jumping, a melee attack and throwing shruikens for our hero to do, and that’s about it. The game nails these mechanics and utilizes increasing level complexity to provide the real challenge.
10 Second Ninja X opts for a simple and easy-to-read art style. Enemies, traps and various doodads are easy to spot, and you’ll quickly understand what most levels are going to require of you. It is still a little on the bland side though, looking like many flash games of yesteryear.
Sound doesn’t make much of an impression, either. The voice acting is the sort of cartoonish gibberish that crops up in a lot of comedy styled indie games, and music acts more like a punch line, like when you get a forced crappy sidekick riffing on Tails from the Sonic series.
Outside of those brief moments, quiet is the name of the game, which I suppose is fitting for one starring a ninja. Sound effects themselves puncture the quiet preparation once you’ve made your move toward robot killing, and the guitar riff for completing a level is always welcome.
Captain Greatbeard has kidnapped all of our unnamed hero’s forest friends and turned them into robots. Wait, that sounds familiar… Yes, the developers clearly love Sonic the Hedgehog, though the game itself doesn’t play much like it. In order to free your friends and escape Greatbeard’s clutches, you will need to perform very well at nearly 100 quick stages.
Each stage affords players 10 seconds to kill every enemy on the screen. While this starts simply, asking players to figure out the best route to smack them with a sword or shruiken, things quickly ramp up.
Enemies get shielded with electricity so you must kill them with a shruiken, which are limited to three per stage. Barriers that reflect shruikens or grapple hook points start creeping in. While early levels are a test of reflexes, as time goes on the game starts to feel more puzzle oriented as you plan out a route of attack involving deathtraps and switches that can block your access.
I compared the title to Super Meat Boy earlier, and it definitely scratches that same itch. Failures can be quickly restarted, and you’ll find yourself howling with rage as you die or barely miss a star milestone.
Speaking of those stars, each level is graded on a three-star curve — the first for finishing the level, and the second and third for playing skillfully. These unlock new areas, which can be a little frustrating, as I found myself forced to grind out better scores to access the next set of levels.
Despite those frustrations, it’s still sort of a short game with few barriers to keep people blocked outside of extreme score chasers. The game does also serve as a pseudo sequel to the original game, however, unlocking the first game’s levels upon completion of the main campaign. That makes this a perfect entry point for those that might have skipped that title.
10 Second Ninja X is a short but sweet little adventure full of tight gameplay mechanics and some fiendishly clever puzzles. Those craving a leaderboard to chase will have a grand time, but even those satisfied with just doing okay will have fun as well.