Playstation Experience: Hands-On With N++

Depending on who you ask, the 2D platformer is either on the decline, or in the midst of a resurgence. I choose to align myself with the latter form of thinking. Although the genre doesn’t find itself topping the charts akin to the success it saw in the 80s and 90s, the past few years have seen a boom in innovation and opportunity for smaller indie developers to flex their programming muscles. Titles like Super Meat Boy and Cloudberry Kingdom have continued to push the envelope in terms of precise controls and frustrating difficulty. From what I’ve played, N++ is going to be the next landmark title to further push the genre toward the next step in its evolution.

A sequel to the 2008 XBLA game N+—later ported to the Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable—calling N++ minimalist would be an understatement. If not for high resolution textures and framerates, it could easily be mistaken for an Atari game. The platforming mechanics, however, are not as simple. Controlling jump timing, distance, and trajectory are all in your hands. Failure is in high volume, but not once did I feel that it was anyone’s fault but my own. As you progress from level to level, N++ keeps finding new and creative ways to hinder your progression. Whether it be bombs, lasers, heat-seeking missiles, spikes, or an evil shadow of your former self, it’s up to you to find the perfect sequence of jumps, whether from the ground or off the wall, to get yourself to safety.

In terms of its simplicity, looks can be deceiving.

In terms of its simplicity, looks can be deceiving.

N++ also offers a local multiplayer mode that supports up to four players. Unlike many platformers I’ve seen and played, this game embraces the chaos by pitting you against each other in an old-fashioned footrace. Going fast could help you or hurt you depending on how your performance is. If you take damage, you’re warped back to the beginning of the stage and forced to start it all over again, giving your opponent the upper hand and a sizable head start depending how much time you’ve wasted. Whoever reaches the goal first is given a rocket launcher. The rocket launcher gives you one remote missile to use against your opponent to try to further impede their journey to the finish line. The multiplayer is a great addition and a nice twist to a genre convention that usually doesn’t get much in terms of fresh ideas.

Whether you’re a platforming masochist who will accept nothing but the highest score possible or a fan of the genre looking for a fun time, N++ is worth checking out. Metanet Software’s title comes at you hard with over a thousand levels, all of which are sure to generate sore thumbs and blown blood vessels everywhere. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a game with tighter controls and more satisfying level design anywhere.

N++ is slated for release on Playstation 4 in 2015.

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