Throughout the lifespan of the Xbox 360, one game has been entrenched in my memory. N+ was an addictive platformer that kidnapped endless hours from me. Dangling that metaphorical carrot , it teased me with “just one more go, I’m sure you will do it this time”. Nine years later, I thought those experiences had been forgotten, leaving closure. However, when I received N++, I felt like a cop being forced back into that nightmare case he lost sleep over.
After kissing my girlfriend one last time (I wasn’t sure I would see her again), I began N++. Immediately, straight from the menu screen, I knew why Metanet had added the extra +. It’s really not even a sequel, but rather a vast expansion. Jumping into the solo mode, you instantly are awed by the sheer size of N++. The intro levels alone total 250, introducing you step by step to the different mechanics and deterrents that you will come up against. The feeling of that dangling carrot starts to creep back. You then proceed into the N++, Ultimate, or Legacy tiers. Early episodes are quick and easy to complete, but as you venture further, you will start to see the difficultly slowly change. There isn’t a distinct shift, but rather a slow rise, giving the impression that making that small mistake was all due to your incompetence, getting you continually and instantly pressing A to retry. Two minute episodes turn into 20 minutes, but I never felt frustrated; instead, each mistake refocused me to grabbing that carrot.
The N in N++ stands for “Way of the Ninja”, as my coloured headband wearing stickman has to jump, dodge, and slide his way through each room. Whether it was the small simple rooms or large complex precision rooms, I entered with the same thought. Where is the key to the door, and how do I get out of here as soon as possible. But the greatness of N++ is the various ways you can play. I could easily go into the same room and not leave until I had collected all the coins. They have also added new enemies that in the later stages make it even harder for you to complete an episode. Rockets, machine guns, and the laser will stalk you as you proceed, but Metanet has also incorporated you as an enemy. When triggering it will spawn a ghost version of you, that will repeat the same actions that you have taken through the level. With just one, it can be simple to dodge, but add in two or three and you really have to think about the actions you are going to take and how they’ll affect you further on.
Aside from solo mode, you can also play with up to three friends in co-op play. N++ have managed to create a co-op experience that still confines itself within the games small level design. Only one person has to reach the end door to continue, but it is designed in a way that other teammates have to make the ultimate sacrifices for the team to succeed. If you thought the solo mode was a breeze, then N++ offers a Hardcore mode. These are a repeat of the same levels that feature in the solo play, but this time the clock never stops. Collecting gold won’t make a difference either, as the time isn’t added until the end. This time is then carried over to the next level, so you really have to make fundamental time management decisions. The only drawback to Hardcore mode is that you are only allowed access to the levels you have completed in Solo Play.
Having stepped away from the different modes that N++ had to offer, I thought I was done. I thought I had outlasted another addictive Metanet game, I was ready to give it an 8, then I notice two more modes. Create and Browse. I realised it had finally happened, that carrot on the stick would be dangling forever. Exploring through Browse mode opened up what was an already vast experience into an endless one. After playing a level, you can favourite it, and even save the creator for future reference.
When playing the previous game, N+, the one criticism I had was how grey and bland Metanet had made it feel. When launching N++ I was greeted with the familiar same grey textures. Disappointed, I jumped into my first episode. Once completed, my screen suddenly turned into an explosion of bright, vibrant colours. The colour scheme changes automatically after completing an episode, but you can also manually change it whenever you feel like it. It gives N++ that lick of paint and constantly keeps it fresh. Some combinations can be a little too contrasting, making enemies slightly invisible or camouflaging the coins- you can get a little disorientated when this occurs, but most of the schemes are a success.