Gaming Today Impressions of N+ (PSP)
Developer: Silverbirch Studios
Platform: PSP, DS
ESRB: “E” for Everyone
Release Date: August 26, 2008
I had never really played N+ before in either its Xbox Live Arcade or PC iterations (it was simply known as N on PCs), save for a very brief session on PC where I had to close my browser almost immediately because I have a very obsessive personality — and this is the type of game that absolutely thrives on that type of person.
The premise is simple enough: get through a stage as quickly as possible using controls that are nothing more than left, right, and jump. There are little gold along the way to collect that add to your score (which is constantly decreasing as time passes), but your only real goal is to get to a certain spot, which usually won’t be open until you hit a switch. While initially it seems simple and fun enough, you get the impression that the ensuing levels (of which there are hundreds) will become nothing more than a cavalcade of mediocrity. With such basic gameplay, it’s not an unreasonable assumption, but play the game for a solid 20 minutes and you’ll begin to see what’s possible by introducing even a single new enemy.
N+ is definitely not for everyone; anyone who gets easily frustrated and likes to then proceed to smash objects in the vicinity would be wise to stay away, or at the very least, to play the game far away from children and expensive electronics. Having a hint of masochism in you definitely helps to egg you along through what can become an excruciating experience. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself lying and saying, “I’ll go straight for the exit” only to die as you try and net a few extra gold. Cursing will ensue, I assure you.
Levels generally take less than a minute to complete, which makes the game a perfect fit on handhelds, although you’ll most assuredly end up replaying levels over and over just in order to finish. Trying to beat your own best time or best score adds a lot of replay to a level that isn’t inherently replayable — but trying to figure out the best possible route becomes a real joy.
Adding to the already addictive nature of the game are the multiplayer mode, level editor, and online support. I wasn’t able to go online or play multiplayer with the build I’ve been playing, but I did get to see what you can achieve with the level editor. I have no qualms with admitting I don’t have even a hint of creativity (thusly making level editors pretty much worthless to me), but I did appreciate the ability to design levels from scratch and instantly hop in and out of test mode. With the success and absolutely mind-blowing levels people have designed for Portal and Echochrome, it’ll be exciting (and frightening) to start downloading levels once the masses get their hands on the game.
With the amount of time it takes to attempt a level, this might be the single most difficult game to not try playing a level just one more time. It’s great for short sessions and long sessions alike — but don’t say I didn’t warn you about staying away from things you’ll be tempted to smash.
Be sure to see the new Super Scribblenauts game review.