N++ Review

The life of a ninja is brief, brutal and centres around a desperate fascination with gold. The key to their survival, as they leap from platforms, bounce from wall to wall and avoid the hazards and enemies that stand in their way, is in a mastery of momentum. It’s that which makes them a ninja and not just an explosive splat of blood and limbs.

It’s that exercise in the preservation of momentum which makes N++ so compelling and also so simple to pick up and play. A quick tap of the X button will see your ninja skip up off the ground, but a long hold has them soar through the air, especially once you’ve built up speed, with a degree of mid-air control allowing you to gracefully land exactly where you want to.

– ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW –

It’s really all about knowing what jump to make and when, in the context of a level. Too large a drop will kill you, touching the spiky mines will kill you, homing missiles, laser turrets, patrolling balls of electricity and evil shadow ninjas will all kill you. Failure inevitably ends in an explosion of limbs, often setting off a cathartic chain reaction of explosions in levels that feature a lot of mines.

Some levels have a relatively simple design for you to leap from one basic platform to the next, while others play with the game’s physics and are more like puzzle than anything else. Those stand in contrast to the maniacal exercises in trial and error, as you struggle to get through or push yourself time and again to perfect the level and collect all of the most difficult to reach gold.

The most striking aspect of the game is in its visuals, as the ninja’s tiny stick figure form makes its way through a two-tone world, with all manner of colour combinations to unlock and choose from – the original’s grey look is still an option. Gameplay itself is king, and is demonstrated as soon as you load up N++, as hapless bots or replays of failure are shown in the main menu background, picking at random from the many levels in the game. It’s all complemented excellently by a subdued soundtrack that features hours of music, for those who want to indulge in extended play sessions.

N++-RILn2

While individual levels range from lasting just a few moments to over a minute of tense precision jumping and games of cat and mouse with the numerous potential enemies, they do not exist in isolation. They’re bundled together in episodes of five with a timer that starts on 90 seconds and ceaselessly counts down to a timely demise, though this is extended by two seconds for each piece of gold you collect, with your eventual time and replay recorded on global leaderboards (sadly you can’t play against another player’s ghost). Of course, your demise will generally be untimely, resetting you back to the beginning of that level with your starting time intact. That episodic set up does, however, preclude you from playing just a single level on its own.

Metanet’s original N was a free flash game, created in 2004, before being brought in the guise of N+ to Xbox Live Arcade in 2008 alongside versions specifically made for Nintendo DS and PSP. As the extra plus implies, N++ supersedes them all, with the legacy episodes included within the staggering 2360 handcrafted levels in the game – this fact alone easily justifies the price of entry – split across solo, co-op and race game modes. You can actually play any part of the game with four players locally.

While you can attempt and complete some co-op levels on your own, many are designed specifically for having two players, with one acting as a sacrificial lamb to trigger a switch, two sides of a level require that you work together, and so on. Races, meanwhile, are all about being the first to survive to the finish, with the overall winner based on time over the course of an episode. There’s an overtly devilish side to the level design, whereby the first player through a space can create all sorts of havoc for those behind and triggers sudden death as soon as they touch the exit. However, it’s a shame that there is no online multiplayer, when this was a part of N+ in the past.

N++-RILn1

However, this is also intended to be a game for the ages that extends beyond Metanet’s own creations, as N++ provides you with all of the tools necessary to create your own levels. The minimalist stylings means that much of the focus can be placed on creating something interesting or challenging, and while there will be plenty of creations that aren’t particularly good, the myriad of search tools and filters to let you find the top levels will extend the game well beyond the staggering number of levels already included.

Having said that, even with the comparative purity of purpose, they could certainly have taken a leaf out of the books of LittleBigPlanet and Sound Shapes, in giving you even a minor introduction to the editor. As it stands, there’s a lack of clarity to basic functions like copy and paste or even deleting something, even with the tooltips menu visible, and there’s no indicator that you’re butting up against the limits of what can be included until you actually do so.

Beyond that, it’s just a pity that the game isn’t making its way to the PlayStation Vita, despite feeling like its gameplay and style would be well suited to the handheld. However, there are plans for Metanet to add further content to the game for free – albeit with the game’s price climbing as more is added – and they have said that, with enough sales, the game could be brought across to Vita.

What’s Good:

  • Easy to pick up but difficult to master platforming.
  • Vast number of levels across all degrees of difficulty.
  • Minimalist visuals and chilled out soundtrack.
  • Level creation and sharing tools.
  • Numberwang!

What’s Bad:

  • Lack of introduction to creation tools.
  • No online multiplayer or playing against replay ghosts.

N++ is a further distillation and refinement of what made N and N+ cult classics in the first place. Rather than replacing those games, it expands upon them greatly, with a bafflingly vast array of levels that come to test you mastery of the game’s pure platforming, and the tools to make even more.

Score: 8/10

Version tested: PS4

– PAGE CONTINUES BELOW –

29 Comments

  1. The largest difference between you and I, dear TSA, is that you value the minimalist indies so much more than I do.

    Apart from that, you’re awesome!

    • Well, as you know, reviews are all subjective and have to be viewed in the light of your own personal tastes and preferences, but we’ll always try to review a game on its own merits and with someone suited to the game behind the keyboard. It just so happens that I think N++ is a damn good platformer, partly because it strips everything right back down to the basics.

      • I know, I know… I apologise, I’m just personally reeling at the sight of each new blocky ZX Spectrum looking game – perhaps because I feel the future chances of PS Plus’ Instant Game Collection containing AAA titles becoming slimmer with each indie release :)

        And I really do think you all are brilliant anyway.

    • If a developer made a game like n++ on a ZX Spectrum game then I would have been bloody impressed.

  2. That’s Numberwang! :D

  3. I see mentions to a ninja, but see no such thing in those screenshots – Am I not looking right, or is it that confusing when you play?? :S

    • Doesn’t that make him a very effective ninja? If you can’t see him? I thought that was the whole point of a ninja?

      • The ninja is a stylised stickfigure in all of this… except when he’s dying explosively. And no, it’s not confusing at all during play, you can blame my scaling and cropping, perhaps, and I might change those images now.

        Edit: There, I hope that helps.

      • Oh, I see him now! Thanks Tef! :)

        Oh & MrYd would be correct as well, being seen doesn’t really go hand in hand with being a ninja. Although how you would actually play the game if he was a ‘true’ ninja remains to be seen (ha, punnage!).

      • It’s all lies, the Ninja is a fancy Stylus with a selfie stick. :P
        The game concept seems great, but must admit a slightly beefed up graphic for me…nothing too much, I don’t mind retro but still.

  4. £15.99?? (Or less with a 10% PS+ discount)

    And they’re going to put the price up as well??

    I guess that means it won’t be on sale at a sensible price for quite some time? Unless it all goes horribly wrong for them and nobody buys it for that price. Which is hopefully what will happen.

    • That should be a 20% PS+ discount. I’ve seen lots of people complaining about the price, actually. You are getting thousands of handcrafted levels for your money, and price hikes will happen as and when more content is added, but will be free additions to existing owners.

      • No, it looks like it’s supposed to be a 10% discount and that 20% they said the other week was a mistake.

        But at full price or 10% off, or even 20% off, it’s still a silly price. And this “buy it now, or we’ll force you to pay for the DLC as well” policy kind of sucks. If there’s thousands of levels already, I guess very few people will ever finish them all and want to spend more on extra DLC levels.

        If it was a more sensible £9.99 with a 10 (or better, 20) percent PS+ discount, then I might be interested. As it is, I think not.

      • Ah, I may have misunderstood about the discount. As ever, this is just capitalism in action.

      • I mentioned the discount issue in the store update post.
        According to the devs the 20% discount was a US only pre-order incentive (they also said that they couldn’t do a pre-order in the EU/UK, although I don’t see why not … oh wait, it was probably terrible communication from SCEE) and they said that to give the EU/UK a blanket 20% discount would be unfair to the US.
        The reason this problem arose is that SCEE copied and pasted the initial blog post from the US blog and obviously didn’t bother to actually read/edit the content (which they have done on quite a few occasions and it has pretty much always caused problems).

        Obviously I would have preferred the 20% discount but it hasn’t stopped me from buying it as I know that there is an absolute shed load of content.

  5. I thought this may have been a sequel to Zool: Ninja of the Nth Dimension, which released in 1992 and strangely has better graphics somehow.

    • Stop that! You’re making me feel old.

      Why do I remember Zool being some sort of ninja ant?? That’s not right, is it? I’m not just old enough to remember these things, I’m old enough to remember them wrongly!

      • Nope, I remember it too & he was totally a ninja ant thing. What gives credence to that sentiment is that I definitely recall levels that were all sweets & sugary things.

        Zool rocked.

      • Chupa Chups!

        Oh, and i guess “Nth” was a play on the word “Ant”.

      • Oh yes, it was a big advert for Chupa Chups. So it all makes sense now.

        Do you want ninja ants? Because that’s how you get ninja ants.

      • I didn’t ask for ninja ants did i? .. Or maybe i did…could be ant dementia.. o.O

      • I had an Aunt Dementia. Terrible name for any relative, really.

      • Am I really going to get back into an argument I thought had died in the playground over 20 years ago? Looks like it….

        If Zool was an ant, he would have more limbs. And Antenna. He didn’t. 4 limbs and ears. Not an ant. Ninja, yes. Ant, no.

        13 year old me is still bitter it would seem :P

      • What you seem to be ignoring is the possibility that he could well be an amputee. Possibly from Diabetes due to Chupa Chups?

      • Forrest, the last person that said something like that to me got pushed down in some mud and called a “stupid head”…..

  6. I can’t knock this game for stripping everything back to focus on the challenge but 2360 levels AND a level editor seems a bit much. I’d probably have more chance of visiting every planet in NMS! ;)

  7. Sounds interesting, but.. it’s pretty expensive. So I’m not sure if I’ll go for it.

  8. cool, let’s hope a vita version will eventually be available! ;)

  9. I really like N, I’ve played them before, but there is absolutely no chance I’m paying £16.

Comments are now closed for this post.