Long before Nintendo Switch swaggered into our lives with its eShop bursting at the seams, there was a little thing called the Nintendo DSi. It was Ninty’s first foray into the world of proper online connectivity in handheld form and with it came the DSi Shop, delivering a slew of digital delights (and a fair few stinkers). One classic to come out of this fresh flow of DSiWare was GO Series: 10 Second Run, a simple assault course that tasked you with running one end to the other in - you guessed it - 10 seconds or less.
Now, seven and a half years later, the simple yet instantly addictive premise is back. With the trailblazing DSi flapping away in console heaven these days, it’s time for Switch to step in as the new home for timed stickman athletics in the form of 10 Second Run Returns. The result is less of a sequel and more of a modern reboot that keeps the central concept, while adding a few extra dimensions that manage to take a long-forgotten little gem and make it that bit more enticing.
As before, there are 50 different courses to complete, but these are now locked behind gates that require you to collect stars in order to unlock them. There are three stars per course, so now you’re not only having to sprint across obstacles to reach the exit, but grab three collectibles as you go. It layers in a convenient grading system to represent your performance, while urging you to time your jumps and dashes perfectly or be punished with instant stickman death. Platforming has been overhauled too, with the ability to wall-jump adding a new element to your obstacle-clambering antics. Animations are far more fluid than the original, and retries load in a flash so your desire to grab that pesky final star isn't hampered by unnecessary loading times.
When you add in the dangerous elements that made the first game tricky without something to grab on the way - including little static fires and walking spike traps - it turns the classic 2D platforming recipe that made Super Mario Bros the revolutionary milestone it was on NES into a more twitch-style affair more akin to modern day 2D platformers, a la Super Meat Boy. It’s hardly a revolutionary concept - especially with the rebirth of the modern 2D platformer over the past few years - but when paired with the white backgrounds, pumping techno soundtrack and the mod-cons of being on Switch it's a distillation that works to its favour.
Being retooled for Switch, 10 Second Run Return now supports co-operative play with a two-player versus mode tasking you with racing another player to the finish line. It removes the need to grab stars, dialling back the game to its basic roots, and can feel a little barren if you’re playing this in couchplay mode after clearing the 50 stages in the single-player Challenge mode. The two-to-four player Battle Royal mode is a bit of a let-down too, mainly because it’s just the same racing concept only with up to four players. It’s a great laugh in itself and suits the intrinsic couchplay nature of the Joy-Con down to the ground - especially in the madness that is four-players - but fails to live up to the improvements found elsewhere.
It’s a shame some of the modes that featured in the original, such as the addictive Marathon (which saw you running a gauntlet from course one to 50 in the fastest time, speedrunner style) are missing from this 2018 reboot, but with the addition of those collectible stars, the new twitch-esque platforming mechanics and the support for co-op play, its absence doesn’t stop 10 Second Run Returns from proving there’s plenty of life left in those DSiWare classics yet.
When the Japan-only GO Series: 10 Second Run was localised back in 2010 it gave the west a chance to experience a classic premise with a speedy twist. Seven-plus years on and that formula feels suitably refreshed on Switch with a tougher set of challenges, a better course unlock system and support for local co-op. 10 Second Run Returns might look basic, but there’s plenty of addictive fun and moreish frustration to be had in 10 seconds or less.