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n+ DS Review

02/10/2010 Thinking Story Gamer Review
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n+ DS





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Family Guide Gamer (DS)
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n+ DS is an unforgiving 2D platformer with a stick-figure protagonist and stark art style. But while it may superficially resemble something from the 1980s, n+ isn't very retro at all.

What could be more 1980s than ninjas and merciless platform games? Add a Duran Duran soundtrack and you would have the perfect nostalgia package.

Even without Simon Le Bon, there's something about n+ (ed: lowercase nomenclature, oh go on then), with its starkly simplistic graphics, ninja protagonist and many, many opportunities for instant death, that will remind older gamers of long, happy/brutal hours playing unforgiving platform games back in the 8-bit era.

Such comparisons are superficial, though. Yes, the ninja in n+ is an all-black stick figure running through environments carved in solid blocks of colour. The collectibles and enemies are also simply drawn.

But look closer. n+'s ninja is a little marvel of animation of a kind unseen on 8-bit platforms - what he lacks in detail or colour he makes up for in the fluidity of his motion, the smoothness and humanity of his leaps and skids.

Fluidity is the key, because n+ is all about another very contemporary aspect of games: physics. The punishing platformers of old were about jumping from the exact pixel to land in the exact place, each jump a simple arc, each movement predictable.

Its narrative is stripped down to the point of non-existence.

n+, on the other hand, is about momentum and friction: take a long run-up to vault over a big gap, then skid to a halt against the floor on the other side before hitting a hazard.

Quite simply, for all the retro stylings, n+ is actually a super-slick product with powerful in-game physics.

What n+ does, however, is very effectively evoke memories of simpler gaming times. Its narrative is stripped down to the point of non-existence - there's the ninja, the gems he needs to collect, some hazards, and a door at the end of each level.

It's a very stripped-down school of gaming, regardless of the technological ooomph involved in making it happen. Run, jump, and grab, combined into a constant dash to get the treasure and escape. If you long for a simpler time of the games of your youth, but don't want to deal with their clunky interfaces and sluggish responses, this is the game for you.

It's the kind of game you remember playing, rather than the kind of game you really did.

It's the kind of game you remember playing, rather than the kind of game you really did.

Even with infinite continues, n+'s relentless, repetitive brutality wasn't for me. It's very well-executed, but n+ is a little too hardcore for my taste. Videogames have largely moved on from such relentless difficulty, and I'm happy to move with them.

Written by Mark Clapham

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Mark Clapham writes the Story Gamer column.

"I love a good story. Games tell many different stories: the stories told through cut scenes and dialogue, but also the stories that emerge through gameplay, the stories players make for themselves."

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