E3 2008: N+ Impressions

We recently saw Atari's nimble ninja in action.

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N+ is a title both apt and misleading. It's apt for its simplicity, but misleading in its length. So what is N+? It's an upcoming 2D platformer that began as a flash game, it stars a little black-clad ninja, and it's now on its way to the DS and PSP. The game is remarkable for its simplicity, in that the graphics are extremely basic, as are the controls (you can only run and jump). Yet the game features a physics engine that would make Gordon Freeman say "Wow!"

You see, your little ninja is subject to both momentum and inertia. If you get a good running start, you can run him or her way up a wall and then kick off through the air to land on a distant platform. But be careful: If you have too much speed, then you'll carry your little self all the way over that tiny platform and into an abyss, or even worse, failure. Fortunately for you, the DS version that we saw featured two different view modes for each stage. On the top screen was a large version of the level with a tiny ninja jumping around inside it. So if you need to plot your overall course, you can take a look at the top screen to see where to go. The bottom screen featured a much closer perspective to help you with all of your precise jumps and other acts of ninja derring-do.

The overall game progresses like this: You enter a level and have to complete five small stages in a row within an unforgiving time limit. So you'll run, jump, and slide your way through each one, picking up coins where you can because they return some of your lost time. You've heard it said that time is money. Well, the opposite is true in N+. And when this game comes out, you should be able to spend a ton of time with it for very little money (about 20 American dollars).

This is because each version of the game (PSP and DS) will feature 350 unique single-player levels, and 150 multiplayer levels. On the single-player content: It's supposed to become insanely difficult. Only a true ninja will be able to finish N+. On the multiplayer content: You've got some options. You and a friend can play a simple game of tag, you can race, or you can enter a mode called Damnation in which coins buy you time by stealing it from your opponent's clock.

Each version of the game will also come with a level editor, which will let you create your own N+ stages and then upload them to a server, where ninjas from around the world will be able to attempt your challenges. Especially cool is the fact that the game's developer, SilverBirch, has found a way around the Nintendo friend code, so you won't have to deal with that in N+. With so much content for such a low price tag, N+ is shaping up to be a steal when it hits store shelves this August 12.

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