Review: N++ (PS4)

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Title: N++
Format: PlayStation Network Download (3.9 GB)
Release Date: July 28, 2015
Publisher: Metanet Software Inc.
Developer: Metanet Software Inc.
Original MSRP: $19.99
ESRB Rating: E
N++ is exclusive to PlayStation 4.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
N++ is the only game on PS4 which will make you feel like a gaming demigod one minute and an ill-tempered chimp the next, ready to lob your DualShock 4 as if you were an Olympic champion discus thrower. It is a beautiful, horrible, joyous, infuriating experience.

The previous game in this series, N+, is still my favorite ever Xbox Live Arcade game (in a toss-up with Outrun Online Arcade). Metanet hasn’t reinvented its own death-defying wheel, instead choosing to refine the already outstanding gameplay we saw on the Xbox 360. In fact, the core mechanics of the game haven’t really changed from the original N (a PC flash game – still playable for free).

For those who have never witnessed this incredible indie title, the premise of N++ is guiding a ninja firstly to a switch and then to an exit door, opened by said switch. In between your ninja and his goal though, there is a raft of enemies, platforming sections, or most likely both. A level is actually five individual stages, each of which lasts anywhere from a few seconds to over a minute.

As a platformer, this leans on perfection. The controls are flawlessly precise. Fortunately for a game this difficult, you never feel a level failure is the game’s error. If you mess up, it’s completely down to your own incompetence. Aside from moving left and right, the only input is X to jump. However, the complexity comes from timing, accuracy, and good judgement of the ninja’s flight.

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Some of those thrilling moments come when there’s a voluminous series of jumps that need to be perfectly executed. The element of risk that comes with some of the levels where you have to travel a long, deathly, distance, is incredibly exciting. Many jumps will have you leaning forward on your seat, holding your thumb on X as hard as possible, clinging to the hope the ninja will make it alive in some truly heart-in-the-mouth moments. For a game as ‘simple’ as N++, the seat-of-the-pants, momentum-driven nature of the gameplay is outstanding.

In terms of enemies, the variety keeps the game fresh and challenging. In addition to some of the more complex platforming sections, N++ is a real thought-provoker, requiring some puzzle-solving skills alongside the standard trial and error. A couple of new enemies have been included into Metanet’s third outing, such as clones of the game’s hero, which will chase you around the screen causing insta-death on impact.

… there’ll always be something else to strive for …
The longevity of N++ is ridiculous, thanks to the 2000+ levels, alongside free upcoming DLC and the infinite number of community-created levels (more on that later). The ‘race’ mode is pretty disappointing and doesn’t offer any great hook, but the solo and co-op modes of N++ are superb. The game may eventually get to saturation point, but as of yet, I haven’t been bored at all. It nails that ‘one more go’ impulse. Plus, simply completing levels isn’t the only objective – collecting all ‘gold’ in each stage is another aim – so there’ll always be something else to strive for.

N++ may well drive you to insanity after failing a single level a hundred times, but it offers some awe-inspiring, addictive, yet simple, gameplay which is best-in-class on PlayStation 4. The learning curve has been smoothed (a common complaint of N+), whilst the physics and controls cannot be faulted. Metanet has stayed true to its roots – the quick fire wall jumps are as pleasing as ever – but has improved the game to the Nth degree (sorry) to create its best work yet in a phenomenal platformer.

Visuals:
‘Minimalist’ is the only way to describe N++. Everything is extremely clean, as precise as the gameplay. Taking place on a single static screen, the action is consistent from one level to the next. Metanet has seen fit to add different color schemes which may please some, though personally I found most of the variations off-putting so I stuck with the standard theme (as seen on the screenshots in this review).

N++ runs smoothly at 60fps and obviously isn’t the most taxing of titles for a system as powerful as the PS4. The few visual effects come in the form of deaths – the ninja will get splatted, electrocuted, blown up, and more, all ending with limbs flying through the air in various directions. Overall, it looks as expected, so zero complaints can be put forth here.

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Audio:
There really isn’t much to the sound of this game. As with the visual effects, it’s pretty basic but does the job well. Sound effects are suitable and not grating, whilst the music is a predictably basic electronic mix. The audio didn’t annoy me at all, but it’s not ‘necessary’ either, so this would be a perfect game to put your earphones in and listen to some tunes (or the latest episode of a certain PlayStation podcast).

Online/Multiplayer:
The lack of online play is perhaps the biggest blot on N++’s almost perfect transcript. Whilst I personally prefer offline co-op (it’s much more entertaining to see the look of joy or anguish on someone’s face), many gamers only play with friends over the Net, and for that group the absence is almost inexcusable.

… the perfect blend of frustration and joy …
Online interaction comes in the form of leaderboards and level creation. Making and publishing a level (despite the builder being devoid of any tutorial) is very easy indeed. The screenshot below shows a PS Nation-themed one I constructed, which took less than five minutes to create and test. Playing other people’s levels is an equally simple task. Of course, this infinite amount of content stretches the longevity of the game in a similar manner to LittleBigPlanet.

As already mentioned, there is co-op play available, which is possibly my favorite way to experience N++. Working with friends (with one often having to sacrifice their ninja to allow the other an exit route) presents even more fun and frustration than the solo mode. The level design is for the most part extremely clever.

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Conclusion:
N++ is the perfect blend of frustration and joy. This, at times infuriating, puzzle-platformer provides a sense of satisfaction upon completion of each level that few games can match. The difficulty and wonderful momentum of the gameplay will have you feeling like a skilled genius whenever a set of levels is completed.

Metanet has refined an already outstanding game in N+ to an insanely high standard. The gameplay is nigh-on flawless, with perfect physics and a plethora of content to wall-jump and dodge. It’s easy to pick up but almost impossible to master, though the difficulty curve is much more forgiving than its predecessor. Despite the lack of online play, you should not hesitate in trying N++, which is one of the very best games ever to have graced the PlayStation Network.

Score:
9.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Raj Mahil

Raj Mahil

Game collector. Journalism graduate. Batman addict. Movie goer. WWE nut. Sports obsessive. Arsenal fan. Squawka.com Sub-Editor.

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