Platforming taken to the Nth degree
The N series began way back in 2005 as a Flash game for Windows. It was a simple, one-screen platformer where players controlled an extremely agile ninja as he traversed hundreds of levels in a never-ending quest to reach the exit. It was then ported to the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo DS as N+, before heading to the PlayStation 4 as N++. It has now gone full circle, returning to the PC in its definitive form. Can it carve a niche for itself back on its home turf after more than a decade of flirting with consoles?
Go ninja, go ninja, go!
Those familiar with the original Flash game will find that the scenario is the same as before. Once again, you’ve got to guide a ninja to the exit on the screen. A simple enough task but for two factors: a timer continuously counting down and an assortment of traps and obstacles that lie in your path. We’re talking lasers, homing rockets, mines, drones, and even evil duplicates of the player. Fortunately, being a ninja means you’ve got fantastic agility and you’re able to jump and scale walls with the minimum of effort. Mastering these basic-yet-crucial skills is the key to conquering the thousands – yes, thousands – of levels with ever-increasing degrees of sadistic design.
A major factor in each level is the presence of collectible gold blocks. These serve the function of adding more seconds to the timer, but aren’t essential in reaching the goal. However, if you’re not aiming to collect all the gold in each level, then you’re simply not playing it right. Finding the perfect balance between grabbing all the gold and getting to the exit in the shortest possible time is the meat of the experience, exemplified by submitting your score to the online leaderboards. Even many of the most demanding of levels can be completed in under a minute, making them great little challenges for a coffee break. It’s the ideal popcorn platformer.
N-ter the dragon
It’s all about control, and this is where N++ truly shines. Control is as tight as can possibly be, responding accurately to player input and allowing for pixel-perfect precision. There’s a fair amount of air control when jumping and special care needs to be taken not to succumb to falling damage. Players may cling to walls and slide down ramps, allowing them a moment to calculate their trajectory for a jump or simply lessen the impact of a fall. All of these moves must often be combined in quick succession in order to perform at your best, the result of which is a high degree of addiction and a willingness to see it through to its end.
Plus-pluses and minuses
There’s virtually nothing to complain about in N++. If I were really reaching, I could say that it occasionally gets frustrating, or that there’s not really much variety, cosmetically or mechanically, in its thousands of levels. However, these are complete knit-picks and hardly detract from the overall enjoyment. There’s too much to love here: the clean and minimalist graphics, the superb soundtrack, the fantastic controls and the absurd amount of levels, plus not to mention the stupidly-fun co-op modes. The developers have taken a simplistic, competent formula and squeezed it for all its worth, vastly improving on its original iteration and being an all-round example of a console port done right.
N++ is easily the finest example of pedigree platforming available on the PC. Simple, raw, unpretentious, focused on skill and absolutely bursting at the seams with levels and replay value, there’s just no reason not to play it if you’re any sort of platform game fan. Snag your copy at the official Steam page and bring your mates along for the ride. Absolutely the best!
Final Verdict: 5/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed) ; Publisher: Metanet Software Inc. ; Developer: Metanet Software Inc. ; Players: 1-4, local co-op and online ; Released: August 25, 2016.
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of N++ given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.