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10 Second Ninja X Review – Pirate Vs. Ninja

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Four Circle Interactive original 10 Second Ninja on PC was a bloody tough game, seeing players take on the role of a cute-yet-incredibly stoic little Shinobi who had to fight his way through a hordes of angry robots in ten seconds or less.

The sequel-come-reboot, 10 Second Ninja X, keeps the basic premise (and punishing difficulty) of the original, presenting players with 100 levels (60 new and 40 legacy levels form the original 10 Second Ninja) that could, theoretically speaking, be finished in quarter of an hour. But in reality will take you several hours to slash, shuriken and somersault your way through. Like a pet bought from a stranger in a pub, it’s a vicious beast that merely looks cute and fluffy.

The setup is incredibly simple: you have just 10 seconds to kill all the angry-looking robots. The faster you accomplish this, the higher your rating (out of three stars). You need 20 stars in each batch of levels in order to unlock the next set. (So far, so good.) However, the difference between one star or two is literally just a couple of seconds. Each set of levels introduces an added layer of complexity, with robots that can only be killed with shuriken, levers that bar progress, and giant bands that redirect your shuriken. The level of skill required to successfully unlock the next set of stages swiftly increases, making the chances of unlocking the next set after your first run laughably slim. Finishing levels isn’t enough to get by. You need to be quick, deadly, and practiced.

The game’s simple, precise control system makes 10 Second Ninja X feel deceptively easy at first, and decidedly old school. Your ability to double jump, slash with your sword, and sling shuriken are all you need to decimate the game’s increasingly deadly gangs of robots. Your quest is to escape from the airship of the evil pirate Greatbeard. Having obviously just graduated from the Dr. Eggman school of obtuse villainy, he’s created a an army of henchmen by turning the local wildlife into mechanized killing machines.

10 Second Ninja X’s stages are bright and colorful affairs, with a delightful 16bit vibe that’s greatly reminiscent of Alex Kidd and Sonic the Hedgehog, though the fast-paced gameplay feels more like a nippier version of Shinobi.

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Despite the punishing difficulty level, there’s something incredibly endearing about the whole affair. Even when you find yourself dying over and over again, it’s impossible to get mad with 10 Second Ninja X. Even during the thumb-blistering final stages, there was a massive grin plastered across my face.

10 Second Ninja X is a fun, colorful and extremely moreish action platformer, with plenty of secrets to uncover and a light-hearted humorous streak throughout. Though its micro levels and pick-up-and-play presentation would probably be better suited to handhelds than home consoles, it’s a ton of fun regardless of what platform you choose to play it on. 10 Second Ninja X once again proves the old adage that gameplay is king.

10 Second Ninja X was reviewed on PS4 with a copy provided by the publisher.

Developer: Four Square Interactive | Publisher: Curve Digital | Genre: Action Platformer | Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One | PEGI/ESRB: 7+/E10+ | Release Date: July 19, 2016

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Review

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night Review — A Symphony for the Fans

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Bloodstained Ritual of the Night

For a long while, the industry had yet to see a return to a true-to-form Castlevania title, leading many fans to speculate if Konami had abandoned the formula all together. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is ArtPlay’s response to this absence, with the legendary Castlevania-veteran Koji Igarashi at its helm. Although Bloodstained may not have certainty that it will continue the legacy of Castlevania, the title delivers on its promise as a game for fans, by the fans, and exceeds most expectations. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a true Castlevania experience in every way except the title. 

In Ritual of the Night, players take control of a Sharbinder named Miriam, an individual who can harness the power of magical shards crystallized by the souls of the enemies she kills. As the core mechanic, the ability to absorb shards and utilize their new skills is required for player progression and success. The fact that Miriam is a Shardbinder further reinforces the narrative of Bloodstained, since their existence often lead to negative events. The story contained within Ritual of the Night is similar to most Castlevania titles, except this time, Dracula is replaced in favor of Gebel, a more skilled Sharbinder and Miriam’s old friend and mentor. 

Bloodstained Castle

Most of the game takes place inside a castle, but long-time Castlevania veterans will expect that the castle is only an external facade, with caverns and caves hiding beneath. Remaining true to its Metroidvania roots, Bloodstained contains a sprawling map full of hidden rooms and secrets. Exploration is encouraged by the ever-present possibility of better items and power-ups in the following rooms. Bloodstained finds a perfect difficulty balance by spacing out save rooms to encourage caution. Every time death was close, the curiosity of what could be behind the next door drove the desire for further exploration.

The map present in Bloodstained is truly expansive and worthy of a Metroidvania title. Each new area provides an extension onto the already dense castle setting, never requiring players to travel to a new location to progress. All additional areas remain connected to the central castle, providing an experience that is continuous and believable. Similarly to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, players can unlock an “Inverse” ability that will flip the playable map upside down and allow for new experiences in an already explored area. Just as he did with Symphony of the Night, Igarashi-san crafted a beautiful setting that retains its appeal even when explored upside down.  

The desire to progress deeper into the castle is fueled in part by the Shard system and the potential of discovering new ones along the way. In Bloodstained: RotN, enemies have the potential to drop shards that provide enhanced abilities and passive stats. Players can equip multiple shards at once, each enhancing different areas of play. For instance, one shard can provide Miriam with an ability drawn from the creature that dropped it, while another can summon a familiar to accompany Miriam throughout her journey. 

Bloodstained Shard

As the game progresses, players are required to backtrack and utilize newly gathered shards to enter areas that were not accessible early on. In this regard, the title maintains its genuine Metroidvania, or Igavania, genre as some fans are hailing it. Killing a random sea creature might net Miriam the ability to create a directional aquatic blast, but use that ability near deep waters and players might be surprised by what they can do. 

Since every enemy in Ritual of the Night is capable of rewarding Miriam with a shard ability, players will quickly find themselves host to multiple of the same kind. To counter this, players are encouraged to sell unwanted shards for coins at the local merchant, where they can also purchase crafting items. The crafting system allows players to utilize recipes found throughout their journey and create food that provides a temporary boost to Miriam’s stats. Additionally, players can use materials gathered to enhance the shards they have amassed to alter its capabilities and damage output. 

Although Bloodstained deserves to be showered with praise, the game is not immune to technical issues that can hinder the experience. During the preparation of this review, the game was subject to continuous frame issues, where too much action would result in stuttering. Additionally, optimization issues plague the console port, with registration lag featured every time Miriam would absorb a shard or with the occasional room entry. ArtPlay has responded to these issues ensuring fans that optimization is a high priority for the company, and it will be addressing these problems within the next few patches.  

Despite a few technical setbacks, Bloodstained is truly an experience for first-timers and longtime Castlevania fans alike. Igarashi-san and ArtPlay built this game out of their love for the genre and that is evident in every aspect of the game. The preservation of a traditional Castlevania game along with the advancements made towards propelling the genre further help Bloodstained stand out amongst other Metroidvania titles of recent years. Although an argument could be made that the title leans too much on its Symphony of the Night influences, Ritual of the Night succeeds in providing fans of the genre with an experience that has been absent for years. 

Given that Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a crowdfunded game, the amount of love and attention evident in its production comes as no surprise. The level of quality that is present in this package is truly astounding, and the appreciation grows even more when considering the free content promised for the coming months. Perfection should not be expected from Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. However, the result is exactly what was promised by the developers, and fans could not ask for more. Throughout its development, Igarashi-san provided continual assurance that he desired to make the game a product of its fans. By listening to criticism and acting on it, he fulfilled his promise with Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

OnlySP Review Score 5 High Distinction

Reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro. Also available on Nintendo Switch, PC, and Xbox One.

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