N+ was a darling, yet challenging, platformer on the Xbox 360, with a later port to the PlayStation Portable and Nintendo DS. However, the game had never made it over to a home PlayStation console until N++‘s recent release on the PlayStation 4. We’ve spent some time with the game and are ready to give you our thoughts below.
Ninja Life is Short
For those who may not know, the N series of games is a 2D platformer, with simple graphics and gameplay. There is a story, which might not be obvious at first glance. Basically, you play as a ninja, who only lives for a minute and a half. By avoiding death and collecting gold, you can extend your lifetime, until you complete a series of five levels that make up an episode. Complete all the episodes, and you win! Of course, things are never as easy as they seem…
N++ has levels grouped into three categories: Solo, Co-Op, and Race. Solo has the meat of the campaign, and as the name implies is for one player. Your goal is to complete the episodes as quickly and efficiently as possible. Each piece of gold that you collect adds one second to your ever-decreasing timer. End the episode with a bunch of time left to secure a spot on the online global leaderboards. Co-op features more complex levels that require at least two players to complete. The levels are usually designed in such a way that it is impossible for a single player to complete them, such as a wall blocking off a section from one player. Finally, Race pits up to four players against each other to see who can complete an episode with the most time remaining, with penalties and other variables that you can play with the make the session more challenging or more forgiving.
Ninja Riding Solo
The Solo levels are divided up into chapters, which begins appropriately enough with the “Intro” chapter. These levels are extremely easy, almost insultingly so. I hadn’t played N+ in a few years, and even I found these to be too easy, but of course your mileage may vary depending on your own experience with the series and platformers in general. The levels do get more challenging later on, but spend enough time with the game and you can clear them all. Getting 100% gold collection on every level, however, will be no easy task. In summation, N++ is challenging, but not Super Meat Boy challenging.
Unfortunately, online multiplayer appears to have been cut from this sequel. This may be a deal breaker for some die-hard players, but when couch co-op and races are still present, its loss is not felt so harshly here. Besides that, you still have the ability to create custom levels and publish them to share with other players. This has resulted in thousands of extra levels available for you to play. Many of these user-created levels can be much harder than even the hardest of the levels produced by developer Metanet Software, but a recent trend of Rube Goldberg-inspired levels has taken off. In these levels, you simply start them by pressing X, and don’t manually move your ninja at all; the level plays itself, often putting your character perilously close to death several times. They are a wonder to behold.
The PS4 is a beast of a gaming machine, and hardly breaks a sweat while running N++. Graphically, this is about as basic as things get, with everything drawn in 2D. There are the occasional effects when your ninja runs into something that kills him, such as a electricity from a robot or sparks from an explosion, but generally N++ is not particularly demanding. As such, the game runs as smooth as butter, and you’d be hard-pressed to ever see a skipped frame.
N++ features a thumping soundtrack, one that is guaranteed to get you into a nice rhythm as you send your ninja careening into the air. A few of the tracks might be a bit too repetitive for some tastes, but thankfully you can quickly change tracks whenever you like. Other than the soundtrack, the only other sound effects occur when you collect gold or are killed. I could see some players donning headphones and zoning out to the music while clearing levels, easily.
If you were a fan of N+, then you’ve probably already bought N++. If you’re a fan of challenging but rewarding platformers, then you should buy this game. If you think you might like a game that rewards perseverance, then you should also buy this game. If you don’t like a challenge, or have terrible reflexes, then you probably should still buy N++ to improve your skills.
Review copy was provided by the publisher. For information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.