N++ (Xbox One Review)

I can still remember my first time discovering the N series. Uncomfortably sitting in one of my schools computer labs, uninterested with the school work that I had in front of, I meandered onto the world wide web and found myself cycling the internet (typically Newgrounds) for fun flash games to play before stumbling across a neat little ninja platformer simply called N. It was the simplicity of it all that made it so captivating. Bite-sized levels that can take less than 20 seconds to complete with the ability to instantly retry upon failure, with no loading.

Failure was inevitable but inconsequential, as you we’re fired back into a level a second later. N held up well in the early 2000’s upon release and even went on to iterate more than its PC flash component, creating N+ (2008) and now N++(2015 PC/PS4) for Xbox One.

N++ gameplay revolves around the negotiation of finely crafted levels by a 24×42 grid space — which isn’t very large — and yet the developers manage to cram so much variety in design into these small confines; boasting a massive 4000+ levels to participate in. Each level has one main objective “get to the exit”. Doing so is no simple task. You’ll be expected to dodge a plethora of deadly traps such as mines, electrified drones, heat-seeking missiles and your common pitfalls, to name a few. All whilst trying to hit a switch that unlocks the door to the exit in order to complete it. All of the above must be done without fail whilst under a very lenient timer. This timer can be extended by collecting gold from each individual level, racking up more seconds than you will ever need.

While there are an insurmountable amount of levels to overcome, they aren’t all dedicated to being played alone. Solo mode offers that option to players that wish to go it alone. On the other hand, co-op is available for those that prefer a companion be by their side–although most co-op levels ensure that one of the players must die for the other to succeed. Race offers up the same challenge that Solo mode does but encourages a fast time by collecting as many gold pieces as possible before finishing the level. And finally Hardcore, a mode that separates the… well, hardcore from the casual. With no leniency on time, players must do what they have always done and make their way to the exit, but death holds no respite. The timer still ticks away after death so you’ll need to be quick on your feet to overcome Hardcore.

The most ingenious design choice on display here, however, is the the decision to not exclusively limit multiplayer to the co-op mode of N++. This means that up to 4 players can join in on any mode, and any level, ultimately resulting in 4000+ levels that can be taken on by a full couch load of friends. And unfortunately, I use couch literally, as there are no (currently) online features for N++ bar some online leaderboards.

Even though it’s a high challenge to sit and complete all of N++’s gargantuan number of levels, players who want a more finely tailored experience can jump into the Creator. This is a very self explanatory mode that players can use to design stages that suit their own interests; Solo/Co-op/Races with any difficulty they see fit. As players are still limited by the 24×42 grid space however, it will become increasingly more difficult to create stages that are unique unto themselves that not only yourself but other players can enjoy with N++ online sharing feature.

Considering I’ve been playing the N series since the early 2000’s, it’s more than likely that I’d start to see the series in an ever dimming light, and partly that is true, but only recently. N++ has roughly came out 10 years after its very first instalment N did back in 2004/2005. And to be quite honest, nothing has really changed. I would have hoped for a little more innovation here and there to spice things up a bit after all this time, but unfortunately, that isn’t the case. While many players will see N++ as having a “tried and true” flow to it, with easy controls and unlimited replayability, I still feel personally that games need to evolve to stay relevant and intriguing. The only new things N++ has going for it is a few unlockable — and ungodly awful — colour palette swaps, and the ability to choose which song you want to play in the background. It’s by no means a bad game, just an overdone and possibly outdated one.

For anyone who grew up loving the N series from its early days of flash gaming, you may find naught to hate or like here. While the original N formulaic design is intact, it has not been built upon in its 10-12 year lifespan. Those who are brand new to the N series will absolutely adore N++ if you have an ounce of interest in platforming games. All in all, its N++ it’s not bad. I’d recommend it to anyone but had high hopes it would have developed a bit more over time.

N++

N++
75

Overall

8/10

    Pros

    • Over 4000 levels.
    • Multiplayer isn't limited to Co-op stages.

    Cons

    • No innovations made.
    • Nauseating colour palletes.

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