N ++ - Review

Author: Nicolas Sangalli
Date: 2020-07-31 08:53:47
A raw and surgical gameplay, an unbridled and mephistophelic difficulty and an acid and crazy experience: there are many ingredients that make up the recipe for N ++, a delusional last project of only three men united under the banner of Metanet Software.

Born as N, flash game of 2004, and then evolved into N +, successor for various consoles of 2008, N ++ is a platform game as immediate as it is cryptic, characterized by tight rhythms, by the arcade formula and which makes its strength simple use and level of challenge over the top. Confused? Let's go step by step.

You are Ninja with amazing powers. But powers that literally cost you years of life. Like all good Ninja in this psychedelic game dimension, however, you are always on the hunt for gold, given that the precious mineral is able to prolong - by a few seconds for each ingot - the otherwise laughable maximum duration of your life: just a minute and a half. Furthermore, your belief in N "the way of the Ninja" leads you to believe ardently in the need to go through a series of five rooms infested with increasingly lethal anti-Ninja machines: a practice known as "completing an episode".

This is up and down the definition of non-plot proposed by the Toronto software house under the heading N ++ History and which well explains the essence of the game in its entirety: a frantic race through a maze of complex levels and finely elaborated by their creators with obsessive and obsessive attention to detail. So much to require executions to the limit of absolute perfection in order to be able to get out not only unscathed and victorious, but with pockets full of all the gold possible if you want to bring home the "perfect score".

The gameplay of this platformer is based on physics strongly driven by inertia and sees us engaged in controlling our Ninja with stick-man style features and mastering extreme moves to be able to climb walls, slide down the walls, make jumps huge and use inclined planes as multi-directional launching ramps or as "landing strips" for free falls. The only commands available to us are the X key for jumping from standstill and jumping from other support surfaces and the directional pad (or analog stick as an alternative) to direct the movements: no weapons, attacks and offensive options, not even the possibility to jump in the head to enemies à la Super Mario. Any obstacle must be skilfully avoided and overcome with a non-violent approach while even the walls often try to make the skin.

The game never forgives and every acrobatic move must be performed with attention and precision, not only to avoid ending up with robotic mastiffs, remote-controlled rocket launchers, machine gun turrets, laser pointers, tracer drones, replicant killers, hedgehogs, electrified orbs and anything else, but also not to unexpectedly shatter on the ground, on a wall or even on the ceiling, which can happen in badly dosing the force impressed in a movement or in carelessly exploiting a trampoline or an ejecting device.

The aim is always to get to the switch that opens the door that can be used to end the level within the given time, passing through the collection of gold scattered in yellow-gold squares throughout the room. Gold is needed to increase the time available to us, as well as to guarantee the coveted medal for the current room and for the whole episode if they collect 5 out of 5.

To overcome individual environments, the game formula requires a certain trial & error, a detail also underlined by the triangle button dedicated to rapid suicide in order to start over from scratch, useful when you realize you have made a mistake and when it even happens to stay trapped in some areas. With deaths in profusion as a perennial dish of the day, frustration and outbursts of anger as a side dish and punch to the sky with final enthusiasm as a dessert, N ++ quickly takes on the flavor of a corresponding Dark Souls of platform games, if you want to pass the comparison.

With "only" 2360 stages at launch, N ++ guarantees a solid and long-lasting playable material base, which unfolds into standard, timed and cooperative sections. The multiplayer provides a limited level park and, alas, only local, but according to Metanet, the minimum presence of lag in the online multiplayer would have compromised the whole experience and it was thus decided to limit the mode to a lounge party game .

Despite the obvious expectations, the level of challenge in the single player campaign is not exactly exactly continuous and perfect growing, but occasionally fluctuating, both from one episode to the next and between the individual rooms included in the various episodes. In this way, even at close range, we are faced with decidedly more usable levels, which are resolved with a couple of attempts, and far more brainy situations in which platforming meets bullet hell and sessions of 30 or more minutes are required to memorize all the dangers arranged around the room, the ideal path to follow, the ideal timing for each move and the pattern of the various enemies, so that you can finish the challenge with the maximum amount of gold collected.

The Solo campaign is compartmentalized in a very generous set of Intro levels, in the N ++ section that collects all the original levels of the game and in the Legacy section, which collects re-editions of classic levels of the saga, revisited to be more infernal than ever.

The creations of the other players can also be surprising, accessible through the Browse option of the Editor mode, where the ingenuity of the most perverse users comes to light: I have not failed to come across quotations such as a huge room shaped on the appearance of Megaman and in creative follies like the shape of a dragon whose mouth has been filled with enemies armed with laser beams to emulate its fiery breath. In the same way, you can indulge in creating your ideal level to share with friends and the community, thanks to a tool that offers a very wide assortment of construction elements, with various types of inclinations of the planes to be inserted, enemies and any other level design element can normally be found in N ++.

To complete the picture there is a minimal and immediate artistic direction that provides, among other things, the possibility to choose and unlock various additional skins that completely modify the color palette of the game, giving N ++ a modern graphic appeal and excellent taste. Particular mention must also be made of the massive soundtrack made up of six hours of more or less environmental electronic songs, which are always in place and create a sound base that does not disappear, but at the same time it is never intrusive and does not subtract the player from attention needed.

To be clear, this is not an adrenaline and thick OST like that of a Miami Hotline, but the music here is in large doses and is treated very well.

MODUS OPERANDI
I played N ++ on my PS4 thanks to a download code provided by Metanet Software and I spent 2 or 3 hours on the game to complete only the intro level pack, half of the first row of the N ++ levels and a handful of levels created by the players in Editor mode that I really enjoyed. I collected all the gold in about half of the levels played and I managed to collect it also in entire chapters, but definitely not everywhere.