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N++ / 24th of September 2016

I remember playing the original N+ back when it came out on the Xbox 360 via Microsoft’s recently released - at the time - online arcade store. It was a very simple game where you play as a 2D ninja and your goal was to reach the door at the end of each level. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent playing that game and getting frustrated by the later levels. It came as a huge shock to me then for my editor to notify me that I would be reviewing the sequel to that very game, a successor that I didn’t even know existed at the time! Apparently N++ has already been out on consoles for a while now and only recently has made the jump to PC, but does it really stack up to the original N+?

The first thing to note is that N+ wasn’t even the original game, that would be an online flash game known as N. The formula has stayed the exact same over the years and a great thing to note is that the original team who worked on N worked on this very game rather than another studio, like those who handled N+. The story of these games are very simple. You are a ninja, you like gold, get to the end of each stage by pressing a button to open a door and collect gold blocks along the way. The amount of levels in the game is absolutely staggering with each level being an ‘episode’ which consists of five stages. After counting I found that this game has at least over 600 separate levels just created by the studio, which is absolutely insane and provides a huge amount of replayability. This is not even before mentioning that this is a completionist’s wet dream as not only are there high score boards but also you can fully complete a level by collecting all the gold blocks, which are sometimes very much out of the way.
The presentation is sleek and has not changed from the original games. Simplistic is probably the best description of how this game looks as you are literally playing as a stick figure. All the items, platforms and enemies are simplistic yet defined and easy to recognise meaning that you are always able to see what is happening on screen, especially with the contrasting colour choices. The game is also incredibly smooth, as it should be for a game of this type. Your character moves with incredible slickness and everything just moves and functions so smoothly that I never saw a hint of slowdown making the game run beautifully and really added to its presentation overall. The music too is great with various quiet and excitement inducing techno soundtracks that try not to distract you from the gameplay but instead just provide a nice atmosphere for you to play in. The best part about all of this however is that you are able to change this all on the fly. By clicking the left shift key you can choose what colours are used by the environments/characters and you can even choose what music you want playing from the selection the game provides you. A game that lets you completely customise how it looks and sounds is always a good one in my books.

The gameplay itself has not changed in the slightest since the original inception of N. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it I suppose. Each level contains a unique challenge and through the opening levels you are slowly introduced to more and more items and mechanics that will be put into common use in later levels. Your character is capable of doing all the things a ninja would be expected to do; wall jump, run fast and leap over large distances. The controls are solid and although this game was meant for a controller (with some menus in the PC port still having button prompts rather than keyboard prompts) it still feels good on PC, especially considering you can change your controls to however you like, and even use a plug in controller! The best part about this gameplay is just how good it makes you feel when you pull off an incredible set of moves to get to the end of the level. By jumping off various small platforms and falling with pin point precision into a hole where the door is, you feel amazing for pulling this off. That’s not all, however, as this game provides so much content it’s almost insane. Firstly, there is local co-op for up to four players on the same keyboard meaning that you and your friends can try your hand at taking on the various levels the game offers, with the game actually having several levels dedicated to the co-op feature. A race mode where you can play against your friends to finish a level the quickest. An in built level editor so you can create your own designs and even publish them online. Finally, there is the level browser which is just such a genius idea. Having this level browser integrated into the main menu itself means that it’s easy to get into a custom made map and spend hours looking for and failing at other people’s levels. There are also various social features that allow you to favourite maps or even specific creators to keep up to date with the new maps that they create. There is so much content here that you could feasibly play this game for eternity with the amount of levels there are.
Honestly, the only negative comment I could think of for this game is the fact that there is no true online multiplayer, or at least none that I could find. Being able to play with your friends on the same keyboard is cool and all but I would also enjoy the ability to play online with my Steam buddies. I understand that lag would be a concern as in this game being fast paced and having complete control over your movements without delay is incredibly important to keeping the gameplay nice and fluid but still just having the option would have been appreciated.

In the end, however, this shortcoming is not enough to drag the game down as I loved playing this throughout my review. In fact, I’m going to go play some more of it right now when I am finished writing this. If you are a fan of platforming games, quick-fix games or just games in general then I highly suggest you go get N++ on Steam right now. You won’t be strapped for content for a long time that’s for certain.
Jack McKay
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