If any game can ever boast the addictive concept of pulling you in for that proverbial “one last try”, it’s N++. The game is described as a fast-paced momentum-based platformer that requires skill and precision to see the experience through, and although N++ is stated to be a sequel to N+, it’s actually more like an expanded version of the latter (a remake expansequel – trademarking that right here). Is that a bad thing? No, not by any means. Metanet Software are clearly heavily leaning on the origin content, but why shouldn’t they? If it’s not broken then don’t fix it! If you’ve never played any of the N games across the several platforms that it’s released on, you would be forgiven to view this as a basic looking indie that doesn’t do much to push out the boat. If that’s your mindset, please realign your judgement process because if N++ is anything, it’s arguably the most addictive game to hit Xbox One in a good long while.
The aim of the game is simple and straight forward, you take on the role of a small ninja that’s tasked with running through a vast band of levels. The game does well at feeding you into the experience during the first couple of hundred levels, giving you the basics of play as well as a firm understanding of what does what. Jumping, sliding and outmanoeuvring the obstacles that lay in your path will soon become a way of life as you bob and weave around each of the countless threatening stages. The actual gameplay is precise and reliable, which is important for a game that relies so much on reflex and precision, especially when you take into account that even hitting the floor or ceiling too hard will wipe you out. Each level has an entry point and an exit point, some levels may be super short but littered with enemies, whereas other levels will be larger but require pin-point perfection when it comes to the platforming. I couldn’t even begin to list each of the foes that will do their best to bring you to your knees, simply due to how vast the game is – offering a total of over 4000 levels.
Outside of the enemies, which includes the likes of machine turrets, lasers, rockets and more, there’s also a great deal of environmental hazards to keep track of. If you’re successful at making it through a level you’ll be shown your leaderboard position, which is further strengthened if you managed to grab all (if not many) of the golden coins that have been scattered throughout the game. You’ll also be rewarded with new colour themes as you make your way further into the experience, you can apply these whenever you want to to change the colour layout of the game. It’s hardly a game changing deal but it’s nice to have this feature present for those that want to pimp-up their ninja. On top of this you can alter the appearance of your ninja too, which again is a nice addition and certainly helps when it comes to co-op.
Co-op works quite well and is massively fun, being that only one ninja needs to make it to the end of each level, with sacrifices needed in order to achieve it. Outside of co-op there’s a race mode and a hardcore mode to sink into. Hardcore mode enables you to play any of the solo mode levels that you’ve unlocked, but with added restraints on how you play. If you thought N++ was lengthy enough as it is, try factoring that there’s a create and browse included. The creation suite is subtle and easy to use, gifting you with the tools you need to create hell for other players to browse and take on, and vice-versa. There’s no denying that you’re getting more than enough for exchange of your hard earned cash, especially if you’re a fan of the genre, but with that being said N++ is hardly a perfect experience.
Don’t get me wrong there’s not a lot that N++ fails at, but what it does fail at tends to be massively annoying. Take for example that you cant save in between episodes, meaning that you’ll need to complete all levels with an episode before you can sigh for relief. This only becomes more of an issue when the game takes the difficulty up to insane proportions, forcing you to replay previous tough levels to get back to where you were. There’s also some problems with the audio effects, namely a bug that constantly repeats a sound effect over and over until you finally have enough and quit to the menu. Mercifully the excellent soundtrack makes up for this to some slight degree. Rounding off my few gripes is the difficulty in the later stages of the game. Whilst the difficulty curve itself is well set and lenient, the game is eventually overly tough to overcome, swiftly replacing all of the fun you are having with equal volumes of frustration.
N++ is a great time killer and will certainly appeal to those that enjoy speedrunning and streaming. The visuals may well be basic, but the solid gameplay and vast amount of content justifies the simplistic design. Despite the problem with the taxing difficulty in the latter stages of play as well as some problems with the audio and save system, there’s several more reasons that N++ will entice you with to outweigh the grief. Throw in the additional game modes and the ability to create and browse levels, and N++ seamlessly stands on its own two feet amidst an already overcrowded genre.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.