No more Mr. Nice Beard.
EDIT (7/21/2016): It has been brought to our attention that the save glitches mentioned in this review have been fixed upon release with a day one patch. The score at the end of the review will reflect this change of affairs.
Ah, surprises. You know, I like those things. You’re put in an unknown environment (in this case, the 10 Second Ninja series), you feel around the walls, and then you either discover boundless adventure or plunge deep into a cliff. Last time I stepped outside my comfort zone, I ended up falling face-first into a ravine and burrowed deep into the Earth’s crust.
This time, though?
My hands are shaking, my blood is pumping, and Mega Man games are going to feel slow and sluggish from now on, but I’m feeling pretty good, all things considered. 10 Second Ninja X will do that to you.
For those not in the know, 10 Second Ninja X is the sequel to 10 Second Ninja: a game in which you’re a speedy ninja who is targeted by Robot Hitler because you’re cooler than him, and he wants to boost the image of robot Nazis everywhere. The ninja has defeated Robot Hitler, and now you have another foe: Captain Greatbeard (or as I like to call him, “Dr. EggBeard”), and you now have to run through 60 stages in less than ten seconds each in order to save your animal friends that are trapped inside evil red and white robots.
You heard me.
10 Second Ninja X‘s story is about as strange as you’d think, considering that premise, and is surprisingly good considering how off-the-wall it is. That said, it does sort of botch the landing, but it peters off in such an endearing way that I hardly cared. The developer also must be some kind of Sonic fan, because references were everywhere. Specific areas look like Sonic levels, the antagonist is more than a little reminiscent of a particular egg-shaped scientist, there’s a child inventor that is equal parts Omochao and Tails, and you’re even a speedy blue person who spins when they (double)jump.
The gameplay is hardly like Sonic, though, that’s for sure. On paper, 10 Second Ninja X is one of those “Masochistic Platformers” that requires you to kill all the robots on screen in under ten seconds, except in practice it’s more like a puzzle game that you need superhuman reflexes for. You have switches you can pull, mechanics to go around, and each stage has its own solution that you’ll need to work through in order to get the best time. You can even play in the arcade to get coins to buy hints, which allow you to see a ghost version of yourself showing you how to beat the level.
It’s cute, but not very useful for anyone other than new players.
Veterans of 10 Second Ninja will find 10 Second Ninja X a more sizable challenge from the first, and in the best possible way. Its difficulty comes from well-designed stages, smooth controls, and well-made puzzles. If you can manage to get the 120 stars necessary to unlock the legacy levels, they’re just as smooth, and it’ll be like playing the original 10 Second Ninja all over again. Except it won’t have Robot Hitler in it. And the graphics will be cleaner and more colorful in that delicious HD.
Okay, so, the stages are fluid and well-designed, the story’s amusing and memorable, the graphics are eye-popping, and playing the game feels like you’re sliding down a water-slide made of a mixture of joy and your own salty tears. Review’s over, right?
Not quite. See, while the meat of the game is a yummy flaky treat, 10 Second Ninja X isn’t without its issues.
Some of these stem in the game’s hubworld, where you can run around, talk to people, explore for hidden objects, and access the game’s different modes. This takes the form of Dr. EggBeard’s ship, and as far as hubworlds go, it’s laid out well and not a chore to get around.
The others are in the game’s hint system.
So what’s the problem?
Bugs, my friends. Bugs.
In some cases — like when the game keeps thinking you are ‘just discovering’ secret areas even if you’ve been there before — it wasn’t so bad. Even when I ended up making my Ninja invisible — multiple times, mind you — by hopping up in the upper-left corner of the Marathon Room, and was forced to restart the game, I just shrugged and told myself not to do that again. Even when I bought a hint for a particular level, and it showed me an example that was clearly playing out the hint for a different level, I shook my head and moved on. But then there was a particular point where I tried to unlock a hint, and the save icon in the corner of the screen started to look different from usual, and wouldn’t disappear. I didn’t think much of it; just a visual bug, that’s no big deal. Then, after getting to a certain point in the story, I shut off the game, took a break, and turned it on again.
…And was all the way back to an earlier point in the game, because after the save icon glitched, it refused to save any more data. The achievements and story data didn’t save.
In short, using hints might be good for new players, but it can sometimes glitch the game to the point where you cannot save your progress, and you cannot collect trophies.
I love you, 10 Second Ninja X, but I can’t in good conscience rate you as high as I would have had these (honestly, game-breaking) glitches not shown up.
There are some minor quibbles, too, but they’re just that: quibbles. The text scrolling during dialogue scenes can get a little hard on the eyes, and the way the stars show up at the end of each level can get distracting. The music can also get repetitive at times, too, but I’ll turn off the game long before I hammer on that mute button.
So, what now?
Well, 10 Second Ninja X is a fun and addictive platform puzzle game for those with the reflexes for it, with some major bugs that will need to be ironed out after release (and turns out that they were!).
Either way, it’s worth a look for fans of the genre, or at least for those who are wondering just what the fuss is about.
Final Verdict: 4 / 5
Available on: PS4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PS Vita, and Windows PC ; Publisher: Curve Digital ; Developer: Four Circle Interactive ; Players: 1 ; Released: July 19, 2016
Full Disclosure: This Review was made possible by a review copy provided by the publisher.