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N+ Preview

Chris_Hudak By:
GENRE Platformer 
DEVELOPER SilverBirch Studio, Metanet 
E Contains Mild Fantasy Violence

What do these ratings mean?

Solve for N+.

In its original incarnation, N was a deceptively simple little Flash game: move left, move right, and jump! Little nimble ninja characters that were scarcely more than stick-figures. Your choice of black, white, with specks of red and yellow for graphics. Bonus ninja-worthy injuries, as a result of banging your head against the nearest wall at the frustratingly-compelling, addictive gameplay.

click to enlargeThe modestly-named N+ is exactly what it sounds like: N, but more of it—not straying far from the original, not futzing too much with the formula, not fixin’ what ain’t broke. You run your little guys around various straightforward, amusingly-creative or just flat-out crazy labyrinthine levels, via a surprisingly responsive physics engine—it even takes a second to reverse direction when you’re running. You collect gold to extend your life-span, pounce on switches to open doors and reach the exit, wall-jump to reach tucked-away rewards or to avoid threats like mines, ninja-seeking missiles, and even the old-reliable, workaday threat of plummeting to your death.

Among the enhancements for N+ are a slightly less user-hostile system for accessing new levels, the option of playing the game with its newer, snazzier visuals (or with the classic Flash-based graphics), and most of all, a superb editor that lets players create their own levels and—on the PSP version, anyway—upload them to a server for other players to pull down, play and rate.

One nifty exclusive to the player-created levels—the developers wanted the main game to remain as true to the original game as possible—is a new environmental feature called the Inertia Field, which temporarily alters gravity within its effect radius.

click to enlargeN+ will also evidently feature special unlockables, the so-called Atari Bonuses—which, as yet, nobody seems to know how to earn (whatever the method is, merely collecting massive amounts of gold ain’t it). Adding to the mystery is the complete, well, mystery of precisely what the Atari Bonus actually is. As the game comes closer to launch, Atari promises there will be hints floating around out there for the determined.

N+ will also offer at least four multiplayer modes—Co-op, Tag, Race and Blitz. Players can create levels for each particular mode, and they can also “Playlist” levels—that is, link groups of preselected levels together to create an uninterrupted run, obviating the need to come back out to the menu screen. N+ for the handhelds will only fuel the long-running, completely-pointless feud between ninjas and pirates when it launches later this year. (Thou shall end this feud now. ~Ed.)

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