800 Microsoft Points
Based on the 2005 freeware PC version, N+ is the latest game in the long line of XBLA revamps. While it includes the expected update in graphics and presentation, N+ also boasts a number of gameplay upgrades that make it worth a look.
The premise is simple. Your goal is to hit the switch that opens the door to the next stage, which is easier said than done. Each level you’ll guide your tiny ninja to the finish line while dodging homicidal robots, land mines, and dangerous pitfalls, as a large timer counts down at the top of the screen reminding you to move it or lose it. Your time bar is only reset after every five levels, so you’ll want to pace yourself if you hope to get through some of the tougher sections. Nabbing gold coins extends the time bar, though they’re often placed in some of the most dangerous positions.
Controlling your ninja is as deceptively simple as your motivation for doing so. The left stick controls movement, while a jump button does the rest of the work. Though the ninja is missing a double jump (a gravity defying staple of the platform genre), the ability to cling to walls and the floaty feel of the jumping allow for a surprising degree of control. The game controls so well that it makes it hard to blame anything but yourself when you fail, and you’ll fail a lot.
The single player experience offers hundreds of challenging levels, sure to drive you insane before you’re finished. This game can be devilishly hard at times thanks to some outrageous level designs. The single player experience is a blast, but the addition of multiplayer is what makes N+ shine.
Up to four people can play together locally or over Xbox Live in a variety of game modes. There are two co-op options; one lets multiple people tackle the single player levels, and the other features specially made maps that require teamwork and patience to finish. There’s also a race mode and a survival mode, the latter tasks players with gobbling up coins to make their time bars outlasts their competitors, while the former has everyone evading peril while they make a mad dash for the exit. The one drawback to the multiplayer (aside from the punishing difficulty of the co-op maps) is that when the camera pulls back to capture all the players, it makes your tiny ninja look microscopic, which can be a strain on the eyes after a while.
If the hours of frustrating risk/reward gameplay aren’t enough, there’s also an easy to use level editor that lets you create and share your own evil creations, insuring that you’ll never run out of maddening levels to test your skill.
N+ is the kind of game that will suck you in and keep you playing far longer than you want to. Sure, you can play N online free, but the excellent multiplayer, old-school simplicity, and treacherous difficulty make the upgraded N+ worth a purchase.