Published on August 31st, 2015 | by David Guild0
Ten years ago Metanet Software created the flash game ‘N’ which took the Internet by storm, winning the Audience Choice Award at the 2005 Independent Games Festival. Then in 2008 the game made its way to consoles, XBLA first then to PSP and DS under the new title of N+. Nothing was really changed but the simple gameplay stayed the same. This brings us to now to the release of N++.
There is no story to be told in the N series, you play as a ninja who loves to collect gold bricks, find keys and race to the exit while dodging killer drones that are armed to the teeth with deadly weapons. The gameplay though is where the N series is at. While you may think just collecting gold bricks and avoiding fire from the drones is easy I can ensure you as a 10 year veteran of the series that this game will make you rage quit, many controllers have met their doom with this series …
When you enter the level you are faced with the challenge to find the key and run to the exit, each level is set out differently with platforms which will require jumping too. You will also notice that there isn’t any time to sit still for long as you are being timed and when the timer hits zero, you’re dead. Lucky the gold bricks you love to collect will restore some vital seconds on the clock. They are other obstacles in your path, locked gates will require your attention as well which are opened by hitting the switch. The other challenge which I’ve already mentioned are the drones.
These drones will be the bane of your existence, you will find yourself praying to whatever god that might hear your pleas of help or sitting in the corner sobbing while rocking back and forth. You may start playing the game and think I’m over reacting, but the first set of levels are gentle on you, they suck you in and when you are thinking you are the Grand Ninja Master, BAM! The difficultly jumps into fifth gear and knocks you right on your ass for being too cocky.
It isn’t the drone’s intelligence that makes you hate them because they are dumb, they either follow a set path, are stationary, or will chase you when you enter their line of sight. But there is one drone called the deathball who will chase you down no matter where you are with intent to kill. Once the deathball catches you it will give you a shock that will end your life. Other drones may carry other weapons like a machine gun, which are slow to start off, but once the gun starts to fire you better hope you are near cover that can stop the rain of bullets that are heading your way. Homing missiles are another weapon in the arsenal. Once the drone sees you it will fire one missile your way, they’re not the fastest projectiles in the game but they will knock you of your pace and blow you up in to little pieces. Shock lasers are another favourite in the series, it can stretch the entire length of the map if nothing is in the way so timing is everything to get past it. The list can go on but we don’t want you to go in too prepared, especially when you face the evil ninja who can mirror your every move!
Of course the drones are only part of the headache in the N series, the most common problem is the mines and they can be and will be pretty much everywhere and with the slightest touch, its bye bye ninja. Plus in N++ they have added toggle mines, which become active once you pass over a certain pixel which may sound alright but quite a few levels will require backtracking so that easy platform you just left has increased its “WTF rating” to an all-time high.
Apart from all that the game is rather simple to control with only a few commands, movement, jump and suicide. The ninja is quite quick on his feet and has a spring in his step which helps him leap large distances. Plus with the abilities to slide down and jump off walls the game is like a 2D version of parkour … a very extreme version of parkour with lots of deaths.
The best thing about the game is after the endless amounts of deaths, you figure out a pattern, make it work and get the ‘W’. Of course I should really mention that you don’t have to go alone, N++ has local multiplayer for some good old fashion fun with up to 4 players which grants you access to race mode and specially designed multiplayer levels. Though sadly there isn’t any online multiplayer which may put people off especially when the costs of joypads are so expensive. I personally had to buy a spare PS4 controller for £40 just so I could play multiplayer with my son who is an ex master in the N+ version of the game. The only way to interact with the outside world is through leaderboards and the power to create levels. If you find yourself with the creative side unlike me then playing with the Level Creator tool should be a breeze. The ability to share levels will add even more time to the games life span.
The clean, simplistic visuals are the same in previous titles with the one main noticeable difference being the bold colours schemes which give it more of a “pow!” in your face feel. There is nothing in the background that will distract you from the mission in hand. Personally I love the colour change as the old grey look was getting a tad boring after 500 or so levels.
The sound of the game is like previous games in the series, simple. It’s there, but the electronic beat of the music pretty much takes over and even if you’re not a fan of the genre, it’s hard not to bump your head with the beat. The great thing about the N series isn’t the audio though, so why not blast your own soundtrack while failing at the game.
Overall, I went into the game thinking how could they top N+ as to me that was a prefect raging platform title which at times made you feel amazing when you were able to dodge between two homing missiles, past the mines and straight in to the gate to make it home free but then blasting colourful language at the TV for the silliest of mistakes while your arms and legs are bouncing about the place hitting mines. Somehow Metanet Software was able to improve the game with new enemies and 2000+ levels of joy and tears.
I admit I wasn’t on top form and that was the reason I didn’t do a gameplay video, I’m not the best with the DuelShock controller but the developer has mentioned several times that if the game does well they will work on a port to the PC and maybe to the XB1. Of course they face the problem with jumping platform to platform they will lose fans on the way but fingers crossed the game will be a hit because we all need these classic gaming moments where you can sit in a living room with your mates and shout at the TV while playing one of the best platforming titles of all time, only rivalled to Super Meat Boy.
If you fancy giving yourself a challenge then N++ is the game for you, don’t let the non online multiplayer put you off.
Summary: N++ brings the pain and joy in loving a good challenge. The simple game is easy to learn but will take Jedi like reflex's to master. Well worth your cash for one of the best indie titles to hit the PS4 Store.