N+ Review

Excelling at the more difficult levels of N+ is what I would imagine it would be like jumping in the driver’s seat of an Ariel Atom and hitting every possible apex of that son-of-a-bitch racetrack Nurburing, in the rain. The goal may seem unrealistic at times, but no matter how many times you die/fail you know in the back of your head it’s possible because the controls are that damn responsive…and because those f*ckers on the message boards are showing off their completion achievement like it’s some kind of substitute for a trophy wife.

Like the world famous car, N+ is a game stripped down to its birthday suit–ready to give the graphics whores naysayers the finger. Aesthetically, the game is very minimalistic utilizing a grey and white color scheme for the level and background, monochromatic lead character, sparse blues and reds for threatening objects and yellow for collectible items. In this age of media oversaturation it’s refreshing to see a game embrace the “less is more” mentality and execute it so well.

The concept of minimalism also applies to the fundamental gameplay which consists of activating a switch to open the exit doors and get to said doors without dying. The complexity, and thereby difficulty, comes when you add a variety of objects into the mix including homing rockets, autoturrets with machine guns or lasers, electrical circular objects of doom, little ground-based moving mines and the basic terrain of the level itself; all of which are so methodically placed by the developers, or a fellow player using the robust level creation feature, you wouldn’t be surprised to find them watching streaming live footage of you repeatedly failing to reach your objective…all the while laughing their asses off. If this were true, it wouldn’t necessarily be bad since they’d be laughing with you because dying in N+ often results in some of the funniest rag doll physics related death sequences this side of Half-Life 2.

The game comes with 250 single-player levels of varying difficulty containing more spikes than Apple’s five year stock chart. Like a shareholder of the aforementioned, I looked forward to these spikes but also enjoyed the predictable but varied in length stability found in-between. With a considerable amount of content and amazing gameplay, the single-player alone is worth the 800 Microsoft Points, but the added multiplayer makes it a must-buy. There isn’t another title on the 360, Live or full-retail, that can match N+’s unique blend of pick-up-and-play multiplayer gameplay.

At various times when playing with complete strangers and friends, I went from wanting to throw my controller through a cement wall, frustrated with my teammates’ inability to activate a switch on their side of the level, to laughing hysterically at our meticulously crafted death sequences. When I got tired of playing co-op through the single-player and multiplayer levels, I opted instead for some competitive gameplay in the form of Survival and Race, which are pretty self-explanatory.

Unfortunately, online play is a little awkward. Lag permeated my entire experience through all modes of play, and as of this writing, still does. Sometimes it’s not so much that I am lagging, but my enemies and teammates are and for a split-second it’ll seem like they hit a switch or were blown to smithereens by a rocket, resulting in me ever-so-slightly altering my entire game plan.

Given the size of Live’s community and the demand for new content, I am flabbergasted, that’s right, flabbergasted that users are unable to share content using the incredibly intuitive editor. Everyone and their grandmother wants a “youtube of gaming” but no one seems to putting forth any effort into actually making it happen. In this case, who’s the culprit? Was developer Metanet Software unable to figure out how to include it, did they simply decide not to, or was it Microsoft’s decision to instead, provide users with extra content in the only way they know how? What way would that be? By making you pay for it of course.

If its potential had been fully realized, N+ could have become a landmark title for Xbox Live, instead it’s only one of the most enjoyable co-op experiences on the system and one of the top ten games on Live Arcade. Other developers need to take note, because N+ is a triumph in minimalism.


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Author: Kyle Stallock View all posts by

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