10 Second Ninja X Review – Surmountable Impossibility (PS4/Vita)
I hated 10 Second Ninja X when I started playing it. It’s one of those timed challenge games where I’m repeatedly beating my head against the wall of knocking off fractions of a second each run in pursuit of the fastest time I can possibly achieve. It’s maddening to say the least, and relationship ruining at its worst (though I’ve learned over the years to temper my…well…temper, when tackling challenges such as this).
10 Second Ninja X is a series of challenge levels that the silent ninja protagonist must complete in under — you guessed it! — 10 seconds. In fact, 10 seconds is quite generous in some instances, with certain challenges requiring final times of less than two seconds to achieve three stars.
A Really Fast Ninja
The blue garbed ninja undertakes these ridiculous rage inducing challenges in a parody of Sonic the Hedgehog. Greatbeard the pirate acts as a sort of Dr. Robotnik, stealing all of the forest creatures and storing them in mechanical implements that the silent ninja must then destroy. There’s even an annoying kid that flies around following Ninja at certain points; the game’s homage to Miles “Tails” Prower. It’s funny at times, like when I came across the costumer’s secret room with an excessively awkward picture of Greatbeard, or when Greatbeard explains how he’s devoted his whole life to challenging the ninja but doesn’t quite know why.
Ninja has a few moves at his disposal to clear each level. Using a double jump, sword swipe, and three ninja stars that he can throw across the stage, Ninja must destroy every robot in under 10 seconds — and as I mentioned before, often much faster than that. Also as mentioned before, I hated it at first. In order to get past the initial 10 levels and even open up the massive pirate ship for exploration and story’s sake, I had to get 20 stars out of a possible 30, which felt nearly impossible in the beginning. I struggled to even finish some of these levels at first. Even lowering this mark to 15 would have felt more accessible, allowing for some one star runs while still getting the hang of the game.
Overcoming the Struggle
One star was pretty consistent for me, with two stars being really exciting moments. It took a lot of playing and replaying each of these first 10 levels to finally get enough to continue the story and unlock the next 10. In a game where repeated attempts of the challenges are key, this initially excessive challenge feels overwhelming and barely balances the trials for anyone but the most hardcore players, failing to incite them to try and try again. Though I managed to overcome the insurmountable and consistently two and three star each level eventually, it took a lot of patience and getting used to the controls, which are less than precise.
Normally I love a good challenge. A game like Olli Olli gives plenty of difficulty while still remaining accessible — easy to learn yet hard to master. While 10 Second Ninja X is easy enough to learn, the difficulty comes in requiring too much of the player to move forward, which may turn away those that don’t have the mettle to push through the initial challenge. Many will be frustratingly stuck on those first 10 levels, and in an age where there are plenty of games to play, the patience to stick with it may be lost on a good percentage of those players.
If you can manage to get beyond the difficulty and get those first 20 stars, 10 Second Ninja X opens up an incredible quick challenge game that is a lot of fun to pick up and play. Each challenge is a maximum of 10 seconds, and restarts are instant, making repetitive assaults on the waiting trials easy to do. Once I found an effective path to destroying the robot prisons, I tried and retried, shaving off fractions of a second in order to come away with a minimum of two stars on every one of the 100 levels in the game — 60 new ones for 10 Second Ninja X, and the original 40 levels from 10 Second Ninja.
There is however a massive glitch that is currently impacting progress in 10 Second Ninja X. After I got into the swing of things, I charged through a good portion of the levels, retrying many of them to get proudly held three star high scores. Yet something was off; that save icon in the upper corner had been repeatedly going around for the past 40 minutes, and I got a sinking feeling in my gut that nothing in that time had saved. I exited the game and sure enough, when I loaded back in, I was kicked back about 30 levels, all of my restarts, retries, high scores, and progress lost to the ether.
(Ed’s Note: According to Four Circle, a title update that should fix the progress issue should be out later today 7/19/2016.)
It didn’t just happen that once either. Consistently the game would enter a perpetual saving state after anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes of continued play. Though I now knew what to look for, I’d often not notice the persistent save icon for at least a couple of levels and lose a little bit of progress each time, which is frustrating to say the least, especially when I’d just made an impressive three star run and clinched my place on top of the leaderboards. I ended up having to close entirely out of the game about five times before I made it through everything with all of my progress intact.
10 Second Ninja X is one of gaming’s simple joys for those who relish repeated challenges in order to shave fractions of a second off of leaderboard high scores. The downside is that it fails to cater to the players who don’t immediately appreciate that level of challenge, shutting the door to them pretty quickly. Break past that barrier though? While it may not seem possible to do a run half a second faster for a three star score, persistence pays off as the slightest of shortcuts comes to heel, turning feelings of rage at the surmounting impossibility into a celebration that calls for a six pack and a cigar, before moving on to the next impassible trial.
10 Second Ninja X review code provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS4. Also available on Vita. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.