10 Second Ninja X is a 100 level side-scroller with puzzle elements in which you have 10 seconds to solve each level. We caught up with Four Circle Interactive’s Dan Pearce to find out more.
Hello Dan! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us today. Can you give us a little background into Four Circle Interactive and how you started developing games?
Hey! So, Four Circle Interactive was formed shortly around the release of the first 10 Second Ninja, which launched on Steam at the start of 2014. The three of us had all helped with the game in some form, as well as all working together on a PS Mobile game called Nunnageddon about a year before.
I personally started working in games at the age of 16 when I won BAFTA’s first YGD award in 2010 off the back of a design document that I’d submitted. In 2012 I started learning to code and the first 10 Second Ninja was the project I did that with. In between starting that and releasing it, I made a game called Castles in the Sky, which was nominated for the Best Debut Game BAFTA. I was also named a BAFTA Breakthrough Brit in 2013.
You are working on 10 Second Ninja X for the Vita. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
Absolutely! 10 Second Ninja X is a blisteringly fast sidescroller in which players have ten seconds or less to finish each level. The player, a ninja, and their forest friends have been kidnapped by the nefarious Captain Greatbeard. Greatbeard wants you to prove that you’re the fastest, raddest dude around and challenges you to complete his courses, which he’s filled with evil robots.
You’ve got to slash, jump and roll through 100 levels (including all 40 levels from the first game, which have been remastered) and prove to the Captain that you are indeed as quick as people say. At the end of each level, you get a three star rating, based on how fast you were.
So the game kind of has this Super Meat Boy or OlliOlli style repetition with some light puzzle elements as you try to figure out the quickest route through each level. All of this is tied together with an explorable hub area, unlockable character skins and minigames.
What gameplay mechanics will gamers experience in 10 Second Ninja X?
So the core mechanics are very simple because the action moves so fast. You can run, jump, double-jump, swing your sword, and toss up to three throwing stars in a level. The puzzle elements revolve around figuring the most efficient ways to use these abilities. Is it quicker toss a throwing star to hit that enemy on the other side of the level? Is that a waste if you’re already hitting the enemy above it with your sword and can simply hit them both as you drop down? We expand on these mechanics later by introducing things like enemies that absorb throwing stars, machines that yank the player towards them when they’re hit with a throwing star and enemies that electrocute you when you use your sword on them.
How much is there to do in the game?
Quite a bit actually! There are 100 levels total, and getting three stars on all of them takes some serious work. There are also leaderboards across all levels, an extra (more challenging) Marathon Mode for each area, unlockable character skins, collectibles pickups hidden in the hub, a minigame for unlocking hints and a second unlockable minigame in the form of Nunnageddon 2 – a sequel to the PSMobile game ‘Nunnageddon’, which we released in 2013.
Are there any notable differences between the PlayStation versions?
Apart from very very minor graphical differences, not really! From the start, we’ve prioritized performance on Vita and got 10 Second Ninja X running at 60FPS across all platforms. 10 Second Ninja X was designed for the Vita and it’s an ambition we’ve had since Nunnageddon came out. As people who were early adopters of the system and people who still play their Vitas a lot, it matters to us on a personal level that we make a truly great Vita game. One of the nice things about us running our own company is it actually gives us the opportunity to achieve that and make it a high priority goal.
All of the original levels are present in this version, was this something you always planned?
It’s something that we always wanted, but it wasn’t clear for a while if it would be possible. Mastertronic published the first game and we made the decision last year to pitch the sequel to Curve Digital. This put us in a bit of an odd position where we weren’t sure what we were and weren’t able to take from the first game. At the back end of last year, though, Mastertronic went into administration and all rights to the first game reverted to us, enabling us to polish up the first game and take what we wanted to keep through to 10 Second Ninja X.
How did you find developing the Vita version?
We’ve really enjoyed it! We’ve always been quite excited about the Vita as players and that enthusiasm translated over to developing for it in quite a natural way. We’ve been using Game Maker: Studio for 10 Second Ninja X and it didn’t take long to get it working in a rough state. I don’t think a lot of Game Maker developed games have been released on Vita without the help of a specialized porting company, but we’ve found the experience relatively painless using the tools that Game Maker comes with out of the box. Plus, the Vita’s D-pad is one of the best around, we’ve had a lot of fun out and about with the game so far.
You previously released Nunnageddon on PSM. What are the chances of a native Vita version?
We were really big fans of PS Mobile, and we’re still quite proud of Nunnageddon. When the platform disappeared, we took a look at finding a way to port Nunnageddon to Vita but quickly realized that a lot of stuff would have to be rebuilt from scratch. We felt like it was a great fit for Vita and wanted to find a way to make it accessible to people again. Instead of rebuilding it, we spent about a month making a sequel to Nunnageddon from the ground up and we’ve included it in 10 Second Ninja X as an unlockable, complete with leaderboard support. We’ve tried to maintain the frantic arcadey pace of it, and there’s actually a brief appearance of it in our release date trailer. I’m really glad that we took the time to put it in there. It’s kind of a thank you to the people who supported PS Mobile and the first Nunnageddon when we were just starting out. Honestly, it’s one of my favorite parts of the game.
What are your thoughts on the Vita as a system? Are there any games that stand out for you?
I adore the Vita. Even since before there was a big push for putting indie games on the system, I thought it was a really really nice machine with a lot of potential. I feel like the Vita versions of Spelunky and Binding of Isaac are hands down the definitive versions of those games. Killzone Mercenary is a technical masterpiece and I still play the Botzone mode quite a bit. OlliOllis 1 and 2 are glorious, I got way into Soul Sacrifice, Minecraft on Vita was excellent, LUFTRAUSERS was amazing – honestly I could go on forever.
What’s next for Four Circle Interactive?
Hehe, it depends how 10 Second Ninja X does. Maybe we’ll be eating beans out of tin cans under an old railway bridge, maybe something else. I will say that there’s another project that’s been on the backburner for the past six months while we’ve been finishing 10 Second Ninja X. We probably won’t be saying much about it until next year but it’s a project I’ve wanted to do for quite a while.
Finally, of the two Vita versions released, the OLED and the Slim, which do you think is best?
The slim is very, very lovely, but I still think that Sony knocked it out of the park with the original OLED design. I like the size of it, I like the weight of it, it’s slick, it’s shiny – just a really good system. I’ve got a lot of love for it.
We would like to thank Dan for his time with this interview! 10 Second Ninja X is out now! Have you picked it up? If not, check out our review!
This article first appeared in the July issue of Vitamag. Look out for more exclusive and magazine first content in the magazine soon!
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