10 Second Ninja X Review
Sometimes the story of how you find and fall into a game can have just as much impact on how much you enjoy the game, as the game itself. That is very much the case for me and 10 Second Ninja X on Playstation Vita. But before we get into all that, let’s talk about the game.
10SNX is both a sequel and a remaster to the original 10 Second Ninja, and features all forty of the original levels remastered in HD, as well as a host of new content and features. The game is a twitch-based action platformer which strives to appeal to fans of games like Super Meat Boy.
In many ways 10SNX functions as a mix of a platformer and a puzzle game. Instead of just being a platformer with the goal to solve the level, you are given ten seconds and a basic set of tools to solve each level within 10 seconds. You are graded on a three star system based on how fast you can complete the level within the ten second window. Your character’s abilities and the game mechanics remain the same throughout the entire experience. You are given tight movement controls with in-air adjustment, the ability to double jump, three shurikens which can be thrown that penetrate enemies so you can hit multiple targets, and a sword strike. The sword strike also can be used when you are not directly near an enemy, as the hitbox and timing on it is wide and flexible enough to allow you to speed through sections.
I can’t stress enough how good this game plays. The timing and feel is so well done that even solving levels you have already completed feels good. I know it gets talked about a lot, and is a very vague way to describe games like this, but there is a certain level of flow when you find your rhythm that lends itself to gameplay that feels great. Each level also features individual leaderboards, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that you can also retry any level instantly with the click of a button. This feature has pretty much become a need-to-have for serious games of this ilk.
On the surface all of this seems to be pretty basic stuff, however as the hub world opens and you begin to explore the different levels, modes, and see the variety of content involved, the game begins to show that it has a lot more to offer than a (fun) surface experience. After a brief but charming introduction, you are brought to the hub world in the form of a pirate ship owned by the antagonist, Captain Greatbeard. He has heard how fast and great you are, and after abducting you in the opening of the game, wishes to put those rumours to the test.
The main story is comprised of sixty levels, broken up into ten level chunks that you can access through television sets located inside of the main portion of Greatbeard’s ship. Each of the television worlds has a different aesthetic, as well as new in-level mechanics that consistently put a fun and surprising twist on the game’s simple control scheme and ability set.
For example, the second world introduces shielded enemies which can only be killed by a thrown shuriken. The third world features switches that, when hit, raise and lower platforms. The fourth world features lasers that your shurikens can bounce off of and continue going. All of these mechanics compound as the game goes on, and in many cases you are faced with late game levels that feature all of these at play.
Each of the six main television sets require an overall star count before they are unlocked, and as each new world is unlocked you are prompted to repair the ship, speak with Greatbeard and some of the other characters on his ship. While the narrative isn’t some grand tale, it surprised me just how charming and effective it was. There are some legitimate turns the story took that I wasn’t expecting, and it was very welcome for a game that I wasn’t expecting to have much story at all.
The game could also be called a parody, or as I refer to it: a light Sonic The Hedgehog fan fiction. At first I didn’t know how hard it was going to lean into this element, but as you progress it becomes very clear. Captain Greatbeard floats around in a ball, like a certain character’s arch nemesis that you may be familiar with. One of the side characters you meet early in the game, an engineer/mechanic named Bengi decides to join you on your adventure at a certain point in the game. You then get reset to the title screen, complete with an “and Benji” suffix. Benji proceeds to float and hover beside you until he gets hit by an enemy, not unlike a annoying sidekick we may all know. Even the enemies who are robots explode into
Flickys little birds when you destroy them. The game finds a good balance of charm and humor with this parody angle. Much of the early narrative involve Greatbeard continually getting frustrated and contemplating his own place in life as you solve his levels, and remain completely silent the entire time. The fact that your own character never speaks impacts Greatbeard throughout the game, and I am happy to say that the entire narrative aspect of this game does have some very good payoffs.
The entire narrative experience can be played through in roughly 6-10 hours, depending on how long it takes you to earn stars and master the main levels. If you are struggling with finding the ideal solution to three star a level, the game offers up easy-to-gain hint tokens. You can use a hint token on any level in the game, and it will literally show you the ideal three star path. Of course, executing the solutions can still present a significant challenge. Gaining hint tokens is as simple as heading over to the Greatbeard Arcade on the deck, where an NPC named Kat will allow you to play a shell game equivalent. Every time you succeed, she’ll reward you with five hint tokens. You can play this game repeatedly, although there are additional targets to keep track of every time you succeed.
10SNX is basically full to bursting with extra features and modes. On top of the sixty main levels, there are 40 “legacy” levels, which are the remastered levels from the original game. There is also a marathon mode for the sixty main levels, which is an endgame challenge in itself. In marathon mode you are tasked with completing the ten levels of a world in a row. Each world in marathon comes with it’s own leaderboard and ranking system, and grades you a letter ranking on your playthrough of all 10 levels. In this mode your deaths and retries are tracked, so if you are like me and wish to get the aptly named “Wooooooooooooooah - Livin' on a prayer” trophy, which requires you to earn all of the games 300 stars as well as X rank each marathon mode, I wish you luck. X ranking a marathon challenge requires a perfect three star run of every one of the ten levels, with zero deaths or retries.
There is also a bonus world, complete with five bonus levels and its own marathon mode; an in-game collectible in the form of nine disks hidden around the hub world; as well as costumes that you unlock for various achievements in the game once you’ve finished with the narrative. I highly encourage going around to collect the disks just to give you some of the subtle but effective charm the game has. The game is very open in the hub world, so don’t hesitate to explore. For example if it looks like you can jump down or off, you probably can. Once you’ve collected all the disks, you unlock a completely separate mini game inside of the arcade area of the hub titled Nunnageddon II: Think of The Children. This side game generated the only time I noticed any slow down or technical issues. It functions like a bullet hell as you get swarmed with zombies from low, medium, and high angles and are given the uppercut, in air slam, and dash/punch abilities. For me, the slowdown in this mode occurred when the screen was littered with enemies. This side game has it’s own leaderboards, and I still find myself occasionally booting it up for a round or two.
If you can’t tell by this review, I absolutely loved and continue to love this game. I plan on trying to get all the stars and trophies. Despite being released in July 2016, this game had mostly stayed off my radar. I saw some footage of it after release, I thought it may look interesting and up my alley, but left it at that. However, after I finished with Spelunky and was actively looking for months for a good Vita replacement, finding such a feature rich and extremely well developed game, for free on PS Plus no less, has been a welcome surprise.
10 Second Ninja X is a tight-controlling, addictive action platformer that’s bursting at the seams with content, and covered in just the right amount of subtle charm to really feel endearing. I highly recommend it to fans of the genre, and even just if you want to breeze through the story and see what that has to offer I recommend checking it out. The game is an ideal Vita experience, and plays amazingly well on the platform. You can also play it on Steam, PS4 and Xbox One.