Not too long ago, an aspiring designer created a series of death traps for ninjas. These traps were not merely cunning mazes or killing-machine-filled rooms, but also a downloadable game for the PC. The game was known as N, a stylishly short abbreviation for Ninja. Atari now enables you to enjoy redesigned ninja challenges on the go in the form of N+ on the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP.
When picking up the game, you become the guide for a bell-bottom-clad ninja as he crosses chasms and traverses increasingly challenging mazes to activate switches--or series of switches--to get to the all-important exit. By making use of a full repertoire of moves, you can find the little guy a way out of more than 200 encounters. Available moves include a wall jump, a wall slide, and the ability to sprint up or down inclines. You can even bound off of walls and shifting blocks. Although you don't have a sword or a double-jump ability, you do have plenty of control over your in-flight movement. This will help you land on narrow ledges, slip through tight passages, and reverse your momentum to avoid any number of diabolical devices. The creators of the various levels cunningly imbedded deadly red mines, electrified blue orbs, and stationary units that shoot homing missiles or deadly accurate projectiles.
As if the enemies and level designs were not challenging enough, a timer in the top screen ruthlessly counts down a collection of microseconds toward zero or otherwise inescapable failure. As you traverse the level, you can grab gold bricks to extend your total time. These units of golden measure are frequently located in hard-to-reach or danger-soaked areas. The time you accumulate carries over from map to map in five-map sets. Completing map collections unlocks victory animations, alternate costumes, and other commodities that came standard in the Xbox 360 release or via homebrew download on the PC. Despite the other versions granting you access to these items from the start, recategorizing them as unlockables adds another element of motivation to continue playing from episode to episode.
The portable versions update the graphics to make the imagery cleaner, sharper, and slightly more colorful. The trancelike soundtrack that was so great on the 360 is gone. The new soundtrack is not only unlockable in two monotonous flavors (though the PSP version's music is less grating), but also has been buried in the options menu. While in the options menu, discriminating players can choose to play levels in the shiny, new Plus graphics or in the retro Pure mode. Neither mode of viewing has any affect on gameplay.
The level-creation opportunities and multiplayer modes have not disappeared now that the game has been taken on the go. More than 100 levels can be selected to play in four ad-hoc and wireless multiplayer modes. These modes allow players to collaborate, compete, and conspire to beat the system. Aspiring ninja challengers can craft subtle jumping puzzles, mine-filled mazes, and overt areas of enemy encounters. The only limit to your ability to create vexing arenas is your imagination. The tool is simple enough for not only veteran builders but also amateur ninja slayers to compose the most demanding gauntlets for other players to run. New episodes can be uploaded, downloaded, and played via Nintendo Wi-Fi or the Sony PSP's ad-hoc connection.
The DS version is cleaner, significantly easier, and optimized for play on the dual screens. The PSP version has the best graphics ever seen in an N+ game, but suffers from long load times, frame rate dips, and less precise controls. While each platform has its own set of levels, the PSP version is definitely more of a challenge for those who have previous N+ experience. Only in the later levels, does the DS version tax those who played other versions. Regardless of the version, the levels are the perfect size for playing on the go.
If you have already downloaded the free version on the PC or the port to the Xbox 360, the gameplay in portable versions are only made more compelling and rewarding. At $19.99, N+ is more expensive than previous releases, but new puzzles and a renewed commitment to collaboration mean the opportunities available via the online community are endless. Regardless of your jumping skill, platforming history, or dodging prowess, N+ will be sure to keep you on your toes no matter where you are playing.