Reviewing N++ has been interesting for me. Typically, I’ll play through a game with an analytic lens, taking notes of its various attributes and how they contribute to the work as a whole. There’s a balance beam in my brain that starts at around 2.5-3 stars, and it sways back and forth as I consider how “good” the game is. With a game like N++, I didn’t feel the need to play through every single level before publishing some words about it. In the stewing time between playing and writing (this is an important step during which the balance beam can sway considerably), I happened to find myself in many conversations about the game. A lot of them. Some conversations were with friends, where we discussed the effects of the game’s austere graphical style. Some were with the Podcats, where we discussed the price point of this and other digital games. A few were with my fiancé, who, to my surprise, really digs the game. Full disclosure, I’ve even held conversations with the game’s developers over Twitter. I try my best not to read other reviews about a game before reviewing it myself, but in the case of N++, I couldn’t help but check out a piece or two. N++, it seems, is garnering contentious reactions. After around 14 hours with the game, I’m not sure why.
It’s quite likely that you’ve heard of or played an N game before. If not, the original is still playable in your browser for free. I have pretty fond memories of playing around with N back in the day. More recently, a friend and I downloaded N+ on his XBox360 and lost hours with it. Now that N++ is out, I think I have a platformer to last me for quite some time. N is for ninja, which you play as in the game. There are no shurikens, swords, or smoke bombs. The reason why the game is branded thus has to do with the movement of your character. Now, when the word ‘floaty’ comes out in a description of a platformer, that’s typically a very negative criticism. However, N++ manages to do the impossible by being an extremely precise, if floaty feeling, excellent platformer. The only other platforming games I can think of that nail floatiness are Rayman Origins and The Fancy Pants Adventures – good company to be in. After some time with N++, I started thinking of the movement as being graceful, and zooming through a level with poise actually made me feel a bit ninja-like myself. Not an easy feat for a game to accomplish. It isn’t difficult to find your flow with such a well-curated soundtrack. The low-thumping trance tracks and boom-bapping house tunes provide the perfect backdrop to a dazed platforming experience. Headphones or a solid sound system would accentuate this game nicely.
The intro levels do a good job getting the player used to the game’s physics. Actions like wall jumping and ‘triple jumping’ (jumping off of a ramp then off of a wall to get some major air) aren’t necessarily intuitive unless you’re very familiar with the previous entries in the series. N++ is very much a game about momentum. I could see how popping into an advanced level with no prior knowledge would leave a player feeling frustrated. Speaking of popping, the game supports 1-4 players in all three of its modes: Solo, Co-Op, and Race. The point of each level, if you want to get down to it, is to hit the switch and escape through the door. That’s it. There’s a timer running down, but I think it’s much like the timer in Super Mario Bros. – if you lose, it’s not going to be because you’re out of time. Death will more likely come from the game’s full cast of enemies and obstacles. While playing, you might notice that there are pieces of gold precisely (not clumsily) placed around each level. Here’s where the game gets interesting.
When I see collectible gold pieces, I want to collect them all. I have a feeling this is a common gamer – or human, really – mentality. (See: The success of Pokémon or any collectible card game.) The game doesn’t tell you this, but you’ll probably learn it quickly enough: Collecting all gold pieces in a level requires a tight grasp of the game’s physics and an expert handle on the controls. Part of me wishes there was an option to turn off gold completely. That way, I could play through every level without worrying about how inferior I am. The other, more seasoned part of me recognizes that this is a finely tuned speed-running game at its core. I love a well-polished speed-running game. I also love getting that tiny icon that shows I’ve completed a block of levels with 100% gold collection. What I think might cause a negative reaction in people who repeatedly fail at playing N++ is that people generally don’t like coming to terms with the fact that they’re not exemplary. I have to deal with this each time I complete a block of levels and see my global ranking land somewhere in the 100s or 200s. Fortunately, I’ve gotten over it and can now just enjoy the game. Sometimes I go for the gold; sometimes I don’t. If I decide to pass right now, I figure I’ll get back to it later. Considering the number of levels in N++, later may be quite some time from now. In my mind, and based on the difficulty curve in the game, I should be much better at the game when that time comes.
N++ has a staggering 2,000+ level count. Somehow, this is translating poorly to people. Part of it might be the intimidating feeling that you’ll never finish the game. I think this is a result of wanting to finish the game now, or within a time frame that fits a digitally downloadable game. For me, N++ is the Madden of platformers. I bought it this year and will come back to it all year, playing a block or two of levels each sitting, perhaps pursuing the ecstasy of 100% gold now and then. Maybe a better way of rolling out the level count would have been to release a couple of rows a week for free? I’m not sure, seeing as how the game was completed in full in about two days (which blows my mind). I do know that Metanet Software plan on releasing more content for the game, which also blows my mind considering there’s already a full-fledged Level Editor at players’ fingertips. There are a plethora of levels created and published by people that range from being hellishly difficult to pleasingly automatic (just boot up the level and watch your ninja go!). I’m not the craftiest player, but it took me about an hour to wrap my head around the editor tools and make a playable homage level.
If you like platformers, you will likely love N++. The game’s physics take a bit of time to get used to, but if you play through the intro levels, you should be fit for flight in no time. My advice for new players would be to take it easy and take it honestly. If you can’t get all of the gold in a level without also raising your blood pressure a considerable amount, just move on. In time, you will undoubtedly get a better feel for the game’s controls and momentum. Take respite in the devs’ sense of humor that permeates from the title screen (where the demo player always dies) to the wacky switches (That’s Numberwang!) in the Options menu. If you can’t figure out a level, watch a pro! Every level features leaderboards complete with instant replays for all ranked players. Check out the top player’s strategy and learn from his/her expertise. Most of all, if you want to succeed in N++, be water, my friend.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here.
What I Like:
- Massive amount of content
- Optional challenge
What I Dislike:
- Seems like the objective is to get all the gold, which could feel frustrating later on.