Gaming editor Christopher Hall reviews the precision 2D platformer N++, one that sets itself apart but is missing something that would place it among the greats
Sometimes there is a game that you can’t really criticise all that much when it comes to the fundamentals and while you think its worth people’s time you can’t help but feel something is off along the way. You initially don’t know what it is, but something about it just doesn’t make the game essential to anyone and its not necessarily because of the fundamentals. This is the case when it comes to N++.
Playing as floaty ninja man, you are a computer simulation going through different challenges, selecting them like choosing files on a computer. Each challenge is an “episode” consisting of 5 levels. There’s pretty much no story to the game, which is absolutely fine considering it is a 2D precision platformer where stories usually don’t add anything much to the game (unless you’re named Celeste). It means there’s more focus on other things like level design and controls among others, which are ultimately more important. Speaking about controls, this game has quite floaty controls which means more of an acceleration delay when you are in the air to when you hit the ground. Similarly on the ground there is also some acceleration delay, unlike Celeste or Hollow Knight, which isn’t to say the game is bad since the game is designed around this and even some of the best 2D platformers have somewhat floaty controls like Super Meat Boy. For better or for worse unlike a lot of 2D platformers, you can die from falling in N++, which does take some getting used to but once again this isn’t at all objectively bad.
The level design is mostly excellent. Each level will have a place you will need to get to and you can simply just get there without anything else considered as long as you get there before the timer runs out. However, where the level design really shines is the additional gold pieces in each level. Each gold piece adds some more time to the timer and after finishing an “episode” you get a rank relative to everyone else who finished it based on how much time is left once the entire stage is finished. If you collect all the gold pieces on a level, there will an icon on that level to show that you’ve collected and if you collect them all in each level for a “episode” then you will see an icon on that “episode” selection to show that. This collecting of gold pieces and rank systems really give it a unique twist. The level design also gels really well with the floaty controls and the fact you can die when falling, showing that floaty controls and fall damage aren’t bad with good design around them is in mind.
There’s also a lot of content here: 30 introductory “episodes”; 100 N++ “episodes”; 100 Ultimate “episodes” and 100 legacy “episodes”. With the price considered, there’s a lot of enjoyable content here and no one can really moan that they are being ripped off. Sure, they are occasionally filler stages, but the excellent ones easily drown them out. There’s a hardcore mode but you won’t want to spend much time with that mode and there’s a map maker mode that adds a bit more to this package. Multiplayer is also added which makes sense, since the whole point is to try to do the levels as the best you can so you rank high up on leader boards and outclass people.
As far as soundtracks are concerned this one is very good. The tracks for each stage really suit the style of the game and the music keeps you going through the stages. It’s nothing super incredible but it is way more than simply serviceable.
The minimal basic art style is also quite unique, and the objects are seen clearly. It’s also fitting to what the game wants to be which is pretty much nothing but precision platforming through these types of levels and competing, but that’s where I take issue to this. I don’t quite think there’s much criticism I can say or that the game fails to be at all what it wants to be. It aims for a purpose and achieves this to near perfection, but it does that one fatal flaw that holds the game back from being a smashing success. While the level designs when you are looking at individual levels are mostly excellent and vary enough so that the game stays fun, there’s never a drastic enough change in the level design to really elevate the game. As a result while the levels are always fun, they do start to blend in with each other too much and subsequently, N++ starts to feel a bit less than the sum of its parts.
However, to say N++ is a waste of time or to even say that it’s not worth full price if you are into 2D platformers would be criminal. It has a lot of content which is mostly well done and as a result I can consider it worthwhile. It’s just missing something, albeit a small something, but an important something that would allow me to evaluate this game to fantastic.
(Review copy provided by publisher)