N+ Review


Our second Live Arcade victim is more your left-field game; an HD conversion of the indie classic N. Of course, when I say HD I don’t want you to get too excited about the graphics. One man’s stylised is another man’s ugly, and if you take a look at the screenshots here and recoil in horror, then N+’s deliberately stripped-back visuals could be an insurmountable barrier for you. Your ninja now has a nice red headband and you’re presented with a scrolling screen, not a single static window, but otherwise any differences between this and the Flash original are minimal.

The setup is also simple. You play a stick-figure ninja who has to escape from each level within a specific time limit. Each level has a door, one or more switches which may need activating before you can go through it, and a whole load of platforms, explosives, impossible climbs, sheer drops and roving enemies in the way. N+ is a game whose roots belong firmly in the eighties platform games found on the Atari 800, ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64. If you’ve played the original Lode Runner, Impossible Mission or Manic Miner, then some of the territory will be familiar.

N+ does things with a twist, however. Beneath the basic graphics it’s actually running a fairly sophisticated physics system, and your ninja’s movement and the whole level design is organised with this in mind. Much of the gameplay is a case of observing how the forces of gravity, friction and momentum work on your ninja, then applying those to the architecture of the level so that you can collect as many of the time extender dots that litter the level as possible, while activating and getting through the exit door.

Your ninja can, of course, leap from platform to platform, but he also dies if he drops too far. To counter this you can use friction, dragging against the sheer face of a platform to slow his falling speed, or wall jumps to leap to another platform. What’s more, your route will be complicated by bombs, nasty little electrocuting spheres, automated cannons, guided missiles and a range of other nasties. On top of that, you’ll have bouncing platforms and springboards to navigate. In a way, then, N+ is also a bit like a 2D version of Portal (though keep in mind that N came first). While your platforming skills are important, you need the kind of brain that can break down the level, analyse the various components and then work out the right approach to take.

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