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N++ Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . N++ trades flashy graphics for precise gameplay, making it one of the best 2D platformers of all time. Add in more than a thousand platforming puzzles and an online level editor and this is one of the complete and satisfying games of 2015. I can't even imagine what N+++ could do to top this. Rating: 92%
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Thanks to the success of 50 Shades of Grey, sadomasochism is suddenly all the rage. While I'm positively baffled by the success of those books, I do know a thing or two about taking pain for pleasure. As somebody who enjoys being tied up by an uber-tough 2D platformer like N+ or Super Meat Boy, I'm used to taking the punishment. I thrive on the satisfied feeling that comes with finally overcoming what looks like an impossible obstacle.

After seven long years, Metanet Software has returned with my newest addiction. Cheekily named N++, the Canadian developers have used one of the most powerful consoles to create a simplistic 2D game starring a stick figure ninja. But don't let the barebones look fool you, because this really is the pinnacle of precision platforming. And with more than a thousand stages and an online level editor, N++ is one of the most complete packages of any game released so far in 2015.


As the stick figure ninja in question, your goal is to run through the level, dodge all the obstacles, touch the switch to open the door and then rush back to exit the stage. You start with only 90 seconds, but will pick up extra time for grabbing the floating gold pieces. If the tiny ninja can make it through five challenging stages before time runs out, a new area will be unlocked and he can continue his quest to run the board.

Each stage is no more than a single screen. There are no checkpoints and, in theory, it shouldn't take you more than a few seconds to complete each level. But N++ has no interest in making it easy on our ninja hero. The stages are filled with spikes, lasers, monsters, missile launchers and all kinds of other deadly obstacles. Of all the horrible paces the game put me through, my favorite was a clone of myself. It's a recreation that perfectly mimics my movement, making it difficult to retrace my steps.

With all the obstacles to overcome, you might think that N++ gives our hero a generous arsenal of moves. Well, that's not the case. Our little stick figure ninja doesn't throw stars, slide under objects or summersault to victory. Instead what he does is run and jump. He can also leap off of walls, sort of like Ryu Hayabusa in Ninja Gaiden. But that's it. This is a game about finding solutions using precise jumping and a well-honed understanding of how our ninja controls.

N++ (PlayStation 4)Click For the Full Picture Archive

By reducing the game down to its most basic design, the developers have been able to create an experience that is all about the gameplay. The ninja has a distinct feel that is often propelled by his momentum. He has a floaty jump that can be controlled in the air for pixel perfect landings. And the wall jump is not only good for reaching out-of-the-way platforms, but breaking what could be a life-ending fall.

However, until you've mastered the control, the game can feel downright sadistic. Hell, even after you've become one with the ninja, the levels can be real mean. This is especially true if you're the type of person who likes to grab all the gold bars before exiting the stage. The designs are cruel and meant to be played over and over until you finally get it. And let me tell you, there's no feeling more satisfying than overcoming an obstacle that once looked impossible.

N++ is split up into three unique sections, each with their own board of platforming puzzles to solve. It starts with the Intro episodes, where the game spends more than 100 stages easing you into the mechanics and obstacles. When you're done with that (or simply want to move on to the main course), the N++ episodes will put your training into action. And just for good measure, the game adds the Legacy episodes, which are pulled from the two previous installments. I guess what I'm saying is that this PlayStation 4 game has a lot of content.

N++ (PlayStation 4)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Actually, there are way more levels than the single-player campaign lets on. Thanks to the custom level editor, N++ offers what could be an endless barrage of stages to download. While easy to use, designing my own stages reinforced that I'm better at playing games than creating them. But for those creative types, there are enough tools here to make any type of platforming puzzle

Much like earlier installments, N++ offers both multiplayer co-op and race modes. As chaotic as this sounds, it's a great way to show off who has the best ninja skills. And even if you're a solo player, the game does a great job of implementing leaderboards for every stage grouping. I'm not sure if this will ever have a big competitive scene, but I appreciate the effort.

With tight handling and an overwhelming selection of stages, N++ is a near perfect 2D platformer. It trades flashy graphics for precise gameplay that rewards patience and practice. Sure, it can be punishing at times, but it's also deeply rewarding and one of the most satisfying experiences you'll have all year. I can't even imagine what N+++ could do to top this.
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