I’m always down for a difficult game. Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Super Meat Boy are some of my all-time favourite titles. The thrill of success after sometimes hours of defeat is a feeling that makes playing games worth the investment. When I loaded up N++ I was expecting a challenge, being slightly familiar with the original release, but it turns out I was nowhere near ready for the ‘Retry Hell’ that I would soon find myself engulfed in.
You take control of a thin little fellow known only as ‘a ninja’. Of course, as a ninja you have advanced psychical abilities and a need to take on loads of challenges. You have an insanely fast metabolism to thank for these amazing powers and abilities. Sadly, as a side effect of this your lifespan is a mere ninety seconds. Your goal: beat the various episodes before your life ends. That’s about as deep as the storyline goes in N++, and even that is only shown on a tongue-in-cheek story page that’s just a few lines of text. But story isn’t the point in this title; challenge, difficulty, and triumph is the point. Whether or not you’ll reach the latter is up to you.
The gameplay is the star of this title, with pinpoint platforming and loads of obstacles which all require split-second reflexes. Controlling your little ninja is fairly straight forward; stick and d-pad moves, the X button jumps. That’s it. This simple mechanic is the genius behind the game. Learning to master the amount of air, speed, and control you’ll need to clear jumps without hitting spikes, bombs, rockets, lasers, or doppelgangers is key to mastering the chaos. While I did find the controls to feel a bit floaty as first, especially when you are airborne, I soon got used to them. I blame this on my obsession with Super Meat Boy and its dead stop controls. After a few of the training levels you’ll soon learn how the game handles and how to tackle each area.
The main goal of each stage is to finish it before the time (your lifespan) runs out. Unlocking and accessing the exit door will achieve this. Standing between you and victory will be a slew of spikes, homing rockets, orb robots, evil ninja clones, and more. Their job is to destroy you and generally make your short ninja life miserable. If you can dodge, outsmart, and avoid these pitfalls, victory is yours. If you truly wish to master a level, you’ll need to collect all the gold boxes scattered about the level. This may not sound like much of a task in the sense of ‘mastery’, but you’ll soon find out collecting little gold pixels is the nearest to hell you may ever wish to be.
The sheer amount of levels in this game is utterly staggering. Counting only the premade levels and not taking into account the endless possibilities with the game’s online level creator and sharing tools, there are easily over one thousand different stages. As I stated before, the game now features a creator tool where you can share user-made creations over PSN which expands N++ with a virtually endless amount of levels.
Adding to the content, there is now a great co-op mode for up to four players. Co-op mode comes with its own custom levels, some requiring self-sacrifice of one player in order for the other to escape. It’s for the greater good little stick ninja … Godspeed. I found this mode to be even harder than solo, but at the same time, extremely fun. Sadly this is only available offline for local players, which is a huge let down. I suppose you can take advantage of the PlayStation 4’s Share Play abilities to remedy this situation, assuming you have an internet connection stable enough to support it.
Visually, the game is a minimalist’s dream. Clean, simple visuals fill the screen, making things uncomplicated, fast and complimentary to the game’s style. You can even change the colour scheme of the game on the fly. Every colour combination you can imagine is an option, from neon pinks and blacks, to more muted colours such as grey and brown. The game also has wonderful particle effects for the massive amount of blood and sparks you’re bound to witness while playing the game.
Sound design is absolutely fantastic in this title. The music thumps with deep techno and electro tunes similar to those I would associate with the Hotline: Miami games. The soundtrack is fitting for the action on-screen, and like the colour scheme, can be changed at a moment’s notice. The sound effects are a perfect fit and never seem to grind on you, despite how often you’ll be hearing them after repeated failures of a level.
Overall, N++ is a game that will test your skills, patience, and anger management. Loaded to the absolute brim with content, if you enjoy a challenging platformer, you can’t get a better value than this. If you are ready for a real test and can afford to buy a new controller, give N++ a whirl. Overcoming the challenges this game presents will bring you an enormous sense of accomplishment.