What can you do in ten seconds? It seems like there’s not enough time, but if pushed you could probably do a lot. A crude drawing of a cat, pouring a cup of tea, defusing multiple bombs while evading sawblades – the possibilities are endless.
And if there is any game that demonstrates just how excruciatingly long ten seconds is, it’s The Bworg’s first title: TEN.
Many thanks to the publishers for the code
Waking up in a tube, you are soon welcomed by a nearby terminal that informs you that you are a clone as part of something known as the ‘Sisyphus Project’. You know little more than that, aside from the fact that others came before you and you’re likely stronger than they are. Clearly this is some kind of psychotic experiment, and your only goal is to ascend the tower and see what awaits at the top. It’s a rather straightforward setup, but things start to come together in the latter half where the story really starts to take shape before culminating in an unexpected and very satisfying conclusion.
Sporting a similar minimal aesthetic to another splatforming game by Ratalaika Games, Dojoran (which I loved), I was excited to see if this offered similarly tight, tough, action. TEN is far different to that amphibious title, as I’ll go into, and is more reminiscent of a masochistic WarioWare than your traditional splatformer.
Each floor has ten rooms to beat, and (most) rooms requires you to survive for ten seconds. Whilst many of the rooms focus on things like sawblades, bullets, and bombs – the latter of which you need to defuse before time runs out – there are quite a few different obstacles you’ll encounter on your journey. Getting through the first nine pits you against a boss of sorts, which typically last for around thirty seconds.
TIME TO DIE
Whilst the idea of surviving for a mere two minutes per floor seems like a doddle, the reality is much farther from the truth. Not only is TEN hard, but it is devilishly hard. Brutal, even. With only three hearts (although this can be upgraded to five), getting through without a scratch can be extremely tough. Boss encounters are especially challenging, particularly the ones later in the game, so you’ll need to avoid getting hit as much as possible in all the rooms prior. The good thing is that the controls are extremely tight, and the challenges are usually fair enough that you can typically figure out a good pattern that keeps you relatively safe. As you get closer to the top, floors get even harder so you’ll need your skills honed to the max if you want to make it through alive.
Thankfully you’re not left completely without help. Each new floor will save your progress, and the entryway to each contains a resting room containing a slice of pizza to restore your health should you ever wish to backtrack partway through the challenge for a quick top-up. Importantly though, this room also contains a capsule where you can purchase upgrades using the coins you can collect in each room. Upgrades range from passive abilities such as extra hearts or a floatier jump, to abilities that you can activate such as a shield or ‘gun’ that you can use for protection. You won’t have enough money to buy everything, so think carefully about what would benefit you the most. These rooms also give off a hint of Catherine Full Body, as they contain other clones resting before they continue their challenge. These numbers dwindle with each floor as they lament whether or not they’re stuck in hell.
If there’s any real criticism about the game, it’s that it’s punishing to a fault. Even though the game rarely seems unfair, it will test people to their limits. As a splatformer aficionado, even I found it to be extremely difficult on the normal difficulty – I can only imagine the suffering those with less honed platforming skills would endure. Whilst there is an easier difficulty, the only difference is access to an invincibility toggle. Considering the harder mode adds extra obstacles to each room, it’s disappointing to see that the easy mode had the exact same layout as the normal difficulty. When less skilled players only have the option of ‘really hard’ or ‘impossible to fail’, it feels like this mode was a little bit of an afterthought. Those looking for a serious challenge though won’t be disappointed. Even if you are good enough to get through the default mode, the hardest difficulty will no doubt put you in your place.
If you’re the type of player that eats Super Meat Boy for breakfast, Spelunky for lunch, and I wanna be the Guy for dinner, TEN will be right up your alley. It offers tight, fair, yet brutally hard platforming within quite a clever narrative tale. If you aren’t confident in your platforming prowess, however, the game will likely kick your arse a little bit too much. Unless you want to cheat your way through in order to experience the story, of course.