We’ve all heard of N. It may have been as exactly that, just N, the flash version of the platformer you got good at for bragging rights, or the 360 version, that didn’t change a whole lot but did have more of N. It stands to reason that the latest version, N++, is exactly that: it’s still very much N, but with more of everything. You’ll still have to dash around levels collecting gold – you’re a greedy ninja who can’t resist its allure – and avoiding enemies and hazards, but instead of ten or a hundred levels, there’s thousands of ’em.
The tools given to you are simple enough, with running and jumping being the only things your ninja can do, but as the suggestive name levels will tell you – they range between outright mocking your capacity to cluing you in as to what you have to do – it’s how you interact that matters. N++ is a momentum-based platformer, and learning when to jump from a slope, how far you can fall before you go splat and how far up you need to leap is key to success. While at first things may seem simple enough, in the first row of levels you’ll already be confronted with the fact that you’re bad at this game, as a particular level has golden pieces just out of reach, with only a few slopes near them, and knowing how to maximize your leaps by using these slopes is still something you haven’t learned.
While it might initially seem similar to other platformers, such as Super Meat Boy, N++ takes an entirely different approach to its design: finishing the levels themselves isn’t that difficult, what is hard is mastering the game to the point you can complete them in a quick fashion or while gathering all the gold nuggets. This reflects in the mood of the game, as while death can be frustrating in other platformers, in N++ it’s similar to the loss of a pole vaulter who sets his bar a tad higher than he can and knocks it down because of it: you could have completed the level if you hadn’t tried to get all the pieces of gold, or if you hadn’t tried to get a specific time. There’s still difficulty in N++, it just seems to be an option rather than a roadblock.
For those who had grown used to, and perhaps tired of, the greyscale background of the original games, N++ has an offering of different filters for you to change its looks. While I enjoyed some of them and loathed others, at time with colors too bright, I found myself going back to the easy-on-the-eyes standard filter due to how unobtrusive it was. This is also true of the soundtrack, which went from a more pulsing beat to the amalgamation of trip-hop and trance present in this version, whose soothing tones likely played a role in my lack of frustration upon death.
N++ is a distilled platformer, simple and lightweight, something that some might equate to lacking, some to clever design. For those with a competitive vein, N++ has leaderboards and score tracking, as well as a co-op mode and competitive racing, but it was in taking my own time with the single-player levels that I found the most fun. I didn’t find motive to play it for long stretches of time, but N++ makes for a good game to visit every day for a couple of stages, chipping away at the massive roster of intelligently designed levels.