Review: N+

A ninja is more than a mere assassin. Ninjas move quickly and assuredly through the most deadly situations, arriving at their destination in style and with not a single hair out of place. N+ is all about precision and control as you guide your ninja through single-screen 2D side-view obstacle courses, and past dangers that can send ninja chunks flying through the level.

The basic rules of every level are the same: touch the switch that opens the exit, touch the door to escape, collect the optional gold pickups along the way. Between the starting point and level’s completion are mines, gun turrets, sentry bots, homing missiles, and some very deep pits, but the ninja is armed with everything he needs thanks to a single jump button, the ability to slide down or spring off walls, and intuitive movement physics. Managing momentum is the key to everything, and the controls are both easy to master and precise enough to allow some impressive feats almost instantly. Need to grab a series of the gold squares hovering in mid-air between a series of mines? Not a problem, although it might take a death or two’s worth of practice. Thankfully, lives are infinite and levels reload instantly, encouraging punishment-free experimentation.


A little less friendly is the level structure, which starts out pleasant enough and then runs into trouble midway through. The main game is divided up into sets of five level episodes, and each one is initially a bite-sized challenge perfect for a quick chunk of portable gaming. As the episodes go by and things get trickier, however, certain patterns start cropping up. Each individual level has its own trick, whether it’s a series of wall jumps, a graceful bout of dodging roaming electrified sentries, avoiding the automated turret fire, trying not to fall to a painful death, or any possible combination. The levels are creative and varied, and have a huge range of challenges. 95% of the time this is great, but every once in a while a level will pop up that’s nothing more than an unpleasant chore. What that level is will vary from player to player, but you will hit a level that evokes the “Oh, screw this!” response. Thanks to a generous selection of episodes this won’t completely stop your overall progress, but once one part of a game becomes work it’s that much easier to see the rest of it in the same light.

That’s an unavoidable issue with a game that ships with a couple hundred levels available, however. The incredible pile of content can’t be all things to everyone, especially when viewed in conjunction with the level editor. Levels can be created fairly simply with the editor and uploaded to a central database, so no matter how much you’ve played there will always be more.


Closing Comments:

N+ is a huge but minimalist game, focusing strictly on its platforming mechanics. The controls are simple, the levels are grey with gold highlights, and the storyline is nonexistent. These could be limitations in another game but here they free N+ to be a fantastic challenge about precise, graceful movement. N+ is almost completely free of distracting bells and whistles, and I’m going to give it the best compliment I can for this type of game: it would have made an excellent ’80s arcade game.
Versions Reviewed: NDS, PSP