N+ Review

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Publisher: Metanet Software
Developer: Slick Entertainment

Platform: Xbox360
Reviewed on Xbox360

"You are a ninja.

"Like all ninjas, you have an unquenchable thirst for gold, a natural propensity for exploring rooms infested by lethal ninja-killing robots and a devout belief in N.

"N, 'the way of the ninja,' is a highly advanced system of spiritual, cognitive and physical training.

"It emphasizes pacifism, humility and the need to traverse a series of 5 rooms before the end of your lifetime; a feat known only as 'beating an episode.'

"In accordance with the teachings, it is your profound hope, nameless ninja, to achieve ultimate mastery of N."

Kyle Ackerman

The original N from Metanet Software quickly became an internet phenomenon following its free release in early 2004. The game set players up as a ninja with a thirst for gold bounding around complex levels. The game was so engaging even in its earliest form because of the underlying physics simulation. No matter what the level looked like, your tiny ninja would bounce appropriately off walls. And when he died, ragdoll physics made the death of that tiny stick figure extremely satisfying and entertaining.

In recent years, Metanet has continued to update N, making the game more stylish and complex. N can be downloaded for free for the PC and even includes a level editor to make your own levels for that stylish tiny ninja. Now, the game has been transformed into N+. In high-definition with a great, minimalist soundtrack, N+ resituates N into an unbelievably crisp physics playground.

The game's rich history means that for 800 points ($10), you get an incredible depth of content. Each level is a puzzle, requiring your tiny ninja with his stylish red sash to activate at least one door switch and make it to the exit. But finishing doesn't have to be enough. Levels are clustered into groups of five and must be completed in a group in as little time as possible. By collecting gold scattered around the levels, that time can be extended. So, to get your time ranked well on the leaderboards, you'll also have to collect gold as you hurry through the level. Of course, the action puzzles are hard enough that just finishing is an accomplishment, and finishing with an impressive time is a feat of coordination.

There are a lot of levels. A lot. The game claims over 300, and just getting through the tutorial and first 50 sets of five will take a long time. The puzzles seem obvious at first, providing obvious routes to the door and optional gold, but quickly become devilishly difficult. And that's just if you play it as a single-player game. You can also play against other folks in survival, race or co-op play. Survival and Race multiplayer modes obvious, and is only attractive relative to just shooting for a better position on the leaderboards in that you get to see how your opponents go about things.

Cooperative play, though, is by far my favorite. With up to four people on the same map, play transforms. Certainly, everyone can rush to follow the same path you would in a single-player game, but better times require more subtlety. One player might rush for the goal while others grab gold. In single player levels, many puzzles start you at the door and require you to rush to a switch and back. With four players, someone can simply wait by the door. Even more clever plans are possible – a single player might throw himself onto mines or in front of missiles to clear the path for another ninja. It's fun to discover new strategies, especially with voice chat.

In case the existing game isn't enough, there's a robust level editor that lets patient ninjas create new levels for other ninjas to navigate. N+ is an awful lot of fun. Under any other circumstances, N+ would compare spectacularly to other Xbox Live Arcade games. If there's a problem with N+, it's simply that anyone with a PC can play N for free.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on March 6, 2008 2:39 PM.

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