PLATFORM: Xbox Live Arcade
PRICE: 800 Points ($10)
ESRB RATING: N/A
DEVELOPER: Slick Entertainment
PUBLISHER: Metanet Software


THE PITCH

You’re a Ninja fighting for his life to open as many doors as he can!

Well, there’s not really much of a story here. You control a little ninja and try to avoid obstacles while getting to a door.

N+ is actually a revamped version of an award winning flash game called N. Inspired by Lode Runner, it’s available for free online right here and while it’s a good indication of how this version plays, there’s so much more to N+.
 
THE PLAY

You move around with the left analog stick and jump with the A button. There’s a door somewhere on the level and a switch to open it. You’re timed throughout each “episode” and can get extra time by picking up the abundant gold squares that are floating around everywhere.

So, hit the switch and get to the door. That’s it. That’s all there is to it.



It’s such a simple game, and the reason it works so well (and is so much damn fun) is that the controls are dead-on. Your character’s got a floaty feel to him that’ll take a bit to get used to, but once you do you’ll realize how easy it is to jump exactly the way you want. You’ll be doing walljumps and dodging enemy missles with ease in no time.

Without these controls, this game would’ve fallen apart. Lots of times you’ll have to get incredibly close to hazards like mines or electric enemies, and it would’ve been impossible without complete control over how your little ninja handles. Combining twitch gaming with a puzzle game is what gives N+ such a unique feel.You’ll need incredible reflexes (or luck) to get past a lot of the boards, but in each one you’ll have to feel out the best path to get to the end.

But don’t think that there’s no challenge here. This is one difficult goddamn game.

I tend to curse a lot while playing videogames, but even I was surprised at the kind of words that were coming out of my mouth when playing this. I think I might’ve invented a few new terms during my hours playing this. It’s bad to be a video game perfectionist when the one you’re playing is so brutal and uncompromising. The difficulty here isn’t cheap, though, every time you die you’ll know why. And trust me, you will die over and over again, in a beautifully bloody fashion (limbs go flying everywhere) that will make you hit that A button fast to jump back in and have another go at it. It’s like Ninja Gaiden, that kind of difficulty that’s frustrating as fuck but so, so satisfying when you beat it. (Ironically, one of the levels I had the most trouble on was called Master Control.)

It’s just so addictive. This is the kind of game you’ll play and play and keep saying to yourself that this is the last level, but then you’ll finish it and immediately start in on the next one and only remember that you were going to stop when you’re halfway through it. It’ll suck your life away. My thumb is hurting right now as I’m typing this, and all I can think about is finishing this review up so I can go back and try to finish the rest of the levels…

This is the kind of game that XBLA was made for- simple and addictive and unique.

THE PRESENTATION

My fiancee came walking by when I was playing this game, laughed, and said “Cutting edge graphics, eh?”

 


It’s true, this isn’t exactly the game to show off your system with, although the animation is smooth and it runs at 60 frames a second (in 1080p, if you’ve got one of those fancy newfangled HDTVs I keep hearing about). But the graphics do the job, and the animation is nice and smooth. To be honest, though, this isn’t the kind of game that needs great graphics to succeed. It’s all about the gameplay.

The music is good electronica stuff that doesn’t quite mesh with the Ninja theme, but goes well with the game. A tad bit repetitive but it’s definitely a nice, pumping soundtrack.

THE REPLAY

There are 45 episodes to play with 5 levels in each, so do the math and you’ll see just how much time you can spend on this one. Especially considering how difficult it gets very early on in the game…

There’s also multiplayer modes galore, both competitive ones (survival and time trials) and an awesome 4-player co-op game. That mode has specific levels for 2-4 players, where you’ll have to help your buddies out in some way, and sometimes start off in a completely closed-off portion of the board, doing your own thing for the greater good.

Besides that there’s also a level editor, so you can create your own puzzles and send them to friends. I really wish there were a way for them to host the best ones, or offer more for download (which is probably coming, for a price), but there’s so much to do here already that you can’t complain.

So, yeah, tons of replay.

THE VERDICT

Do not buy this game if you want to be productive. I’m serious- you won’t get anything done. It’s addicting as all hell, and the multiplayer will have you playing for a long time. If you have it, hit me up for some co-op. If you don’t, definitely consider checking out the demo. $10 does seem kind of steep for a game that’s already available for free online but this is such a quality game that it’d easily be worth twice that (which it will be when Nintendo DS and PSP versions hit in a month).

9.0 out of 10