|System: PSP, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: SilverBirch / Metanet||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Atari||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Aug. 26, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Maria Montoro
First, I got to try this game at E3 back in July. Then, I downloaded the console version from Xbox LIVE Arcade. In both occasions I was pleasantly surprised with the compelling and extremely addictive gameplay this retro-inspired platforming title has to offer.
The PSP version looks a bit sharper and more detailed than the Xbox 360 version. I haven't had the chance to see the DS adaptation yet, but Atari promised these new handheld versions are more refined and finished. Also, the game includes a large amount of levels that will keep you busy for hours on end; so, even if you've played the game on the Xbox 360, you still have reasons to play it on-the-go. To top it off, it includes a great level creator that makes the replay value skyrocket. We'll talk more about that later.
N+ is streamlined and simple. So much indeed that it looks like an old Atari 2600 game, only sharper-looking and with faster-paced gameplay. For a change, we're not talking about a remake or a sequel of a retro game but rather a new and original idea that has gone a long way. It first saw light in 2005 as a Flash game. Who knew ninjas could be so cool even when just represented with a few straight lines and plain colors? If you look at the screenshots, you'll see how the main character of this platformer is nothing more than that. The backgrounds are gray, blue, or purple wallpapers, and the platforms are straight or curved shapes with no further detail. Bombs, coins, and other elements in the game are equally minimalistic, but they work! So, how does such a simple game become so appealing? The key is in the gameplay.
In N+ you take on the role of a ninja and just sprint and jump from platform to platform, avoiding bombs, mines, zap and laser drones, missile turrets, and other explosive paraphernalia. In each level, you'll have to look for one or more switches. The main switch unlocks the exit door, and other switches open up certain gates so you can make your way to the exit. While doing all this, your ninja has to pick up as many gold coins (or dots) as possible, which affects the final score along with completion time and number of tries. Like any good ninja, your character is able to climb from wall to wall, jump higher after being flung from launch pads or bounce blocks, and more. The only ninja thing he won't do is fight. Oh well. I guess that would be a good idea for N2 or whatever they want to call it.
As easy as it sounds, the game is actually quite challenging. The good thing is there's a nice balance between the maps, and some are easier than others, to help you catch your breath after some nerve-racking, hair-pulling stages. The level difficulty relies simply on how the different elements were laid out on the stage. Also, the more explosives you encounter, the tougher it will be to reach the exit. I have to admit my heartbeat increased notably while playing some of these levels, and I could feel fire running through my veins as I repeated some of them 30 or 40 times. However, N+ is so addictive that even the most maddening frustration won't be enough to quit. That's perhaps what makes this game so engaging.
As you complete levels, you'll receive rewards like new ninja colors, level packs, animations, and more frantic and restless techno music to drive you crazy while you play. These rewards are not too significant, but they're enticing enough to keep you going. Of course, most of you will find more motivation in unlocking all the levels and beating every single one of them, rather than being able to play the game with a pink ninja instead of the standard black. The amount of levels included in the UMD make this title almost never ending, especially for those that only pick up the PSP from time to time. One thing that worries me is the ability to play this while on the airplane. Something tells me people won't enjoy watching me yell at the game, all full of rage.
N+ also offers a local multiplayer mode. If your friend also has a PSP and N+, you can join forces and beat about 100 levels cooperatively. This makes it much easier; one of you can focus on touching the switches while the other collects some coins and gets to the exit. Only one of the players has to go through the door in order to beat the level, so there are fewer chances to screw up along the way. Online co-op would have been nice, though the ability to communicate is very important, and maybe that's one of the reasons why online co-op didn't make it into the game. It will be nice when handheld games start to include voice chat on a more general basis. There's also a competitive two-player mode with about 50 levels. Talk about frantic!