|System: X360 (XBLA)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Slick Entertainment||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Metanet Software||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 19, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
It's a well-known fact that Ninjas are excellent at stalking items/people and hijacking them. I mean, Ryu of Ninja Gaiden fame can even commandeer a boat! But did you know that Ninjas can invade your console as well and steal atrocious amounts of your precious time? Well, if you didn't, I would encourage you to check out the Xbox Live Arcade. There you will find a rather conspicuous title, N+. But what is this N and why is it attached to a mathematical symbol? Well, the N stands for Ninja, and the plus sign is an indication that this is an upgraded version of the original N, a PC game released almost four years ago.
N+ is a very interesting title that is all about substance and has a style that can best be described as minimalist. Although the game is presented in 1080i, you really couldn't tell because the overall look of N+ resembles a flash game. But that is definitely not a bad thing. I would equate it to Sony's upcoming Echochrome, which is also all about substance and has a minimal focus on visual aesthetics.
Gameplay is the real focus here. It may look like a simple flash game, but there is so much fun to be had in the 300+ levels, not to mention the multiplayer modes, that you'll find yourself wholly addicted in no time. You play as a non-descript ninja who just so happens to live in a post-apocalyptic world where rooms are shaped like puzzles and there are a whole bunch of robots who want to kill you. You'll have to use your ninja abilities to get through endlessly challenging rooms that will test your speed, skill, reflexes, and patience. And even though the gameplay can get pretty frustrating at times, somehow you'll find yourself still glued to your TV and striving to reach "just one more level."
And to further prove the power that ninjas have over your immediate life, you may not be the only one who has found yourself spellbound by N+. Indeed there are several multiplayer modes that will get you and all of your friends in on N+'s unique brand of ninja action. The most enjoyable facet of the multiplayer modes had to be co-op because it allows for some strategy in the gameplay. Instead of just running and jumping around obstacles, you and a friend can split the difference and find ways to reach the target in a much easier way. For example, let's say there is a door behind a huge column of bombs. In the single player mode, you might have needed to climb a large wall and make a huge leap past these bombs in order to reach the door. But in co-op mode you (or your friend) can just run through the bombs and blow yourself and the obstacle away. Then the second player can just waltz through where the obstacle was and proceed through the door and onto the next level. Sure this involves a little bit of self-sacrifice, but moving past some of the more difficult stages this way is well worth the pain. In addition to the co-op mode, there are also competitive modes which allow you to play against a friend using time trials or survival techniques. Although these modes are great for those who love competing, I have to say that the co-op mode is the most rewarding.
In addition to the gameplay, another element to N+ that makes it incredibly fun is the ragdoll physics. When your character makes a misstep and plummets to his/her death, or gets electrocuted by a robot, or gets blown up, it is a hilarious occasion. The physics in the game resemble that of PAIN, and as such are extremely entertaining to watch. And, like in PAIN, your little Ninja person is built pretty tough and is easily killed, but not easily destroyed. What this means is that if you land on an explosive, your body will be blown to smithereens. But you can see the smithereens go in different directions and interact with other explosives, or get electrocuted, or even bounce up and down on trampolines. And if you have a really fantastic death, there is a replay function which allows you to relive your glory over and over.
Controls here are very simple but very important. You only use the left thumbstick and the A button for the gameplay, but there are a variety of things you can do with this combination. You can run and jump, you can climb walls, jump from wall to wall, and even do spider crawls up single walls. But even though the controls are simplistic almost to a fault, don't be fooled. The controls require a great deal of precision from the user, and this is where things get frustrating. Because while you may have wanted to do the spider crawl up a wall, you might have ended up doing a fantastic perpendicular jump that resulted in your untimely ninja death. And then you have to start all over. It is definitely a vicious cycle, and I would recommend going through the tutorial a few times just to get the hang of things.
N+ is a great game for the Live Arcade. It is presented well, but it is the core gameplay that makes this title so much fun. The blend of puzzling room-based gameplay, combined with the ninja aspect of the game makes it well worth the 800 Microsoft points you'll need to download the title. And for those who can't get enough of N+, there are two handheld versions for the PSP and DS that should be available later this spring. But don't wait for those because there is plenty of N+ ninja action available right now on your Xbox 360. In fact I have it on good authority that the ninjas are stalking YOUR console right now
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Freelance Writer