The chance to review N++ on the PC was something that I would never choose to pass up on, I have played both of its predecessors so with an understanding of knowing what pain and frustration I was preparing to face, I became full of excitement as the N series have been incredibly rewarding and enjoyable.
So the N series has proven to be quite an addictive set of indie games from a company called Metanet Software. The idea behind the game is pretty simple. Starting from the door, get the Ninja to the switch, unlock the door and return to the now open door. Sounds pretty easy doesn’t it? Well it couldn’t be any more of the opposite.
The player controls a silhouette styled Ninja across various different small and short level layouts, avoiding traps, enemies and well, everything apart from the switches and little gold cubes. Contact with anything other than the two will cause destruction of the player, resetting the level. As you get further through the levels the difficulty increases, different enemies and obstacles emerge and the player frustration increases, contributing to more mistakes. Even with all this, the game is incredibly addictive.
The success of a player is then based on how fast the level can be conquered while collecting all the available gold squares, which increase the overall time the player has left to complete the 5 rooms per level. To traverse these rooms the controls are very simple, the arrows keys move the character left and right with Z being jump. The controls work brilliantly with this game considering the difficulty element. Having complicated or excessive controls would cause far too many problems. The developers seem to have a firm grasp of the “less is more” concept which in my opinion, is perfect for this game. A popular game which follows similar concepts and features is “Super Meat Boy”, using simple layouts and design but with genius elements of difficulty. The game also carries a high variance of obstacles that need to be avoided, anywhere from missiles being fired at you to a ghost of the character chasing after you, repeating every move you make.
The graphics for this game are very basic, they use bold block colour and simple shapes, all apart from the character which even though is a stylised Ninja silhouette, has a very smooth animation, which when in motion to look not only looks more intricate but also stands out from everything else in the level. Obstacles are simple but easy to differentiate from one another as the use of colour and design keeps it possible to tell them apart. This is quite key to the design of N++ as the player needs to be quick and responsive on all levels, so obvious distinguishability is very important to keep the flow and not disrupt the players split second impulsiveness, there is enough in the level to do that already. It all fits in nicely as the game is not using a glamourized overcoat, it is confident in the mechanics and fantastically designed levels that keep to a clean and sharpened style, still contributing to the overall game feel and experience.
The soundtrack for a game like this, I feel, is very important. You need to be provided with music that has a strong and consistent rhythm since players can often find this being a factor, as it can make subconscious alterations on split second decisions. It can also contribute to becoming a pattern when doing an action like jumping. The rhythm can easily generate a flow for the player, anything inconsistent can throw a players concentration generating an unpleasant frustrating experience. I feel the developers have taken this into strong consideration since they have been very successful with this in N++ predecessors. The sound effects play a similar role, being short and clear, using nothing intricate, they help work alongside the graphics to differentiate the different enemy types through the levels.
The game oozes with replayability. There are plenty of different factors that just keep me going back, such as improving my score. I found myself accomplishing a difficult level by trial and error until something worked. Once I was successful I repeated over and over to better my time and score overall. There is also a separate sense of accomplishment once a difficult level has been overcome for the first time, which is the most rewarding part of N++. This becomes addictive, I found myself prepared to fail a level over and over just for the achievement of becoming successful.
I feel that this game lives up to the value of both before it. The level design is flawless, keeping even the most responsive player on their toes and leaving you always hungry for more. It has addictive qualities which can take up hours at a time as “only one more level” becomes 5 levels later. The graphics and sound merge brilliantly to present a fun, pick up and play style with an extremely large sense of reward. I would fully recommend to any player that enjoys a challenge, a large feeling of self-accomplishment and reward of not being defeated.
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