There are platform games and then there are platform games. The sheer variety in the genre, particularly since Mario 64 showed the game could be done in 3D, has been mindblowing and a real joy to behold for those of us that like tricky jumps and collecting things. Recently, very few games have concentrated purely on the gameplay side of things, opting instead to spend a good amount of time on things like "graphics" - an understandable conceit perhaps, particularly as we move to the new generation of consoles.

So when something as basic looking as N+ comes along (let's face it, this game wouldn't tax a Gameboy Advance), that it polarizes audiences so markedly into two camps ("eww ugly, no thanks!" and "it's all about the gameplay folks!") should be no surprise. Chances are that if you're reading this, you're in the latter camp - there's no real chance of converting those former folks, they're too turned off to get this far, so we'll sum up the graphics very briefly then move on: they're functional, your tiny little dude actually has lots of character and they don't ever get in the way of the action. But they aren't going to get a high score.

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The gameplay side of N+ can be summed up pretty quickly: perform ever increasingly difficult tasks in a 2D environment in order to collect lots of gold things and then open the exit and move on. Your little dude (basically a souped-up stick figure, with a scarf) is extremely athletic and powered by a nifty physics implementation which enables some rather dramatic feats of physical prowess, including very high and very long jumps, wall jumps and more. He can even wall jump up a single surface - something Mario and Samus have never quite pulled off.

The control of your little jumper dude (he's a ninja, don't mess with him) is extremely tight; you always feel in control. Wall jumping has the right level of difficulty (enough that you feel cool when you master it, not so much that it takes any real time to get that good at it) and in-air adjustment of your pixel ninja's trajectory is exactly right. Having to combine your player's inertia with the jumps (thanks to their physics implementation) gives added depth to the controls, with clever level designs placing bonus gold just out of reach of all but the most skilled players.

The levels themselves (there are 300 of them, plus you can both make your own and download levels made by others) are almost without exception outstanding in design, constantly challenging the player without ever having two levels follow each other that feel particularly similar. They are, however, pretty seriously hard. There's no doubt that the developers (Slick Entertainment Inc) are old school gamers and fans of the days of old, where gamers were hardcore and dying over and over wasn't just the norm, it was desired. It's not clear that today's gamers, in an environment where it's not actually possible to fail anything, even at school, are going to lap up this return to the days gone by where dying hundreds of times before dinner is expected.

So, all in all, N+ is a hardout classic platform game with cool physics, a cool character and boatloads of content (online tournaments, system link, support for up to four players, level editor and 300 levels), all for a measley 800 points. What's not to love? Just the graphics, clearly, with a minor reservation of the extra-tough difficulty of later levels. Get the demo at the very least, you owe it to yourself to try this one.

"Pure and unadulterated platform gaming goodness."
- N+
Follow Own it? Rating: PG   Difficulty: Insane   Learning Curve: 1 Hour


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