As a child of the ZX Spectrum, I adore the 1-bit aesthetic. It usually comes with hardcore gameplay too and TEN provides just that. It’s a precision platformer that gives you 10 sets of 10 levels that you have to survive 10 seconds in. It is as addictive and screamworthy as it is fast paced and dynamic. This is a hidden gem in the budget platformer range.
Firstly lets get this out of the way, TEN broke me. I am humble enough to know that it was a me problem more than a game problem though – my skills were just not up to par. Thankfully you can unlock an invisibility mode and through various upgrades to health and your abilities, TEN does become easier over time. It’s still a challenge though and one veterans of precision platformers should still enjoy. Each room is a death trap of spikes, lazers, spinning wheels, deadly fish, electric fences and moving objects to squash you. Dotted around the room will be coins to collect if you want to buy those upgrades but ultimately its up you how you’ll survive. Some rooms allow you to hide in a corner for a bit, or if there are bullets flying about everywhere you can jump and dive to their pattern. Other rooms have sequenced events like spikes that chase you or bombs that will explode the room and kill you if you don’t touch them all. These are the harder levels as it makes you active rather than defensive. Controls are not archaic though. Your character is fast and nimble and reminds me a lot of N++ but with less gravity. There is an innate floatiness in the jump but its consistent and that’s key for a game like this.
One of the reasons I got so invested in TEN was because I wanted to collect everything and that ultimately became my downfall. In later levels I turned on invincibility mode to see the game out as my skills weren’t quite letting me 100% everything and I’d get annoyed when I couldn’t do it. I’ve since replayed TEN on a less exacting playthrough and I was able to get through the game eventually but it took me quite a few hours to do it. Whilst you might budget 2 hours, if you play TEN properly, it’ll be longer. Those upgrade do help and a bit of coin grinding can help you out too as a death sets you back a few stages as you have to complete them in sets. That’s part of the challenge though and fits the old school graphics. I also want to shout out the great grizzle rock soundtrack too which you can enjoy in jukebox mode.
I did run into a couple of issues that caused some unnecessary deaths. Teleporting sometimes puts you in the wrong place and the odd hitbox feels too small and visually you can fall through ledges whilst visually seeing you should have made it. This applies to some traps too. You also have to be onboard with the whole ethos of if you die on level 5, you’ll need to clear levels 1-4 again before redoing 5. This is where your playtime will wrack up and that might not appeal to everyone. I enjoyed TEN however and I’m glad second time around I made it through without the cheats (eventually).
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