DS Fanboy Review: N+

Metanet's N is a game in which the player is tasked with running very quickly through obstacles and jumping with high levels of precision in order to reach the exit door. It takes place in small, self-contained levels, uses simple, clean graphics, and has no real story to remember.

Though it first appeared as a freeware PC game and was then remade and enhanced as an Xbox Live Arcade game, there is no denying that N is an ideal handheld game. You really couldn't come up with a better design for an on-the-go game.

N+ from Atari is basically N, on the DS, with new levels. So, naturally, it works out pretty well.

People familiar with the XBLA or PC/Mac versions (and, really, there's no reason not to be familiar with the free PC/Mac version, unless you're reading this from your Wii or a phone or something) won't find any major surprises here. N+ is divided into 300 levels, in which you, as a ninja, must get out of a platform-filled room, by first tripping the switch to open the door, and then reaching the door itself. You must navigate through the odd-shaped levels, dodging floating mines and automated drone enemies on your way to this goal.

Said enemies range from dumb drones who follow a set pattern, to enemies who rush along the floor toward you, to the worst of all: stationary missile turrets that fire homing projectiles. The levels are lined with gold pieces that add seconds to your timer (and challenge to your path, should you want to pick it all up).

But there's enough new here that even (especially, in fact) diehard N players will want to play this: for one thing, every level in the game is brand new and designed by either Metanet or a level-design contest winner. This includes the 50 versus levels and 100 coop levels.

Oh, right, there's versus and coop play.

You can play N+ using the simple, stark graphics from the original version, or with a new graphical style with more detailed drones and background images. Both styles are best described as "clean," and both shrink down to the DS screen nicely. While other versions of N display their levels on a single, non-scrolling screen, Atari and developer Silverbirch compromise by showing a zoomed-out view of the entire map on one screen and a scrolling display on the other screen (you can set the main gameplay to the top or bottom screen).

Like the original N, N+ features a level editor and an uploader that lets you share your creations, as well as download, rate, and set records in others'. Even before the game's official release, Metanet had uploaded a nice selection of new levels.

N+ shares a lot with another recent high-scoring DS game, Bangai-O Spirits. While the difficulty is somewhat friendlier, it does curve upward into brutal territory. Both games use small, enclosed levels selectable from a menu; both games have rich editors with easy access to an online community. But compared to the flashy, experience in Treasure's game, N+ is much more streamlined, and a lot easier to understand. You run and jump. It lacks some of the all-encompassing versatility of the other title, opting for focus instead.

N+ seems to be fulfilling its destiny as a handheld game. What was an excellent computer game is now a brilliant DS game whose unique structure allows players to have an awesome time for as long as they have time or patience for. You can literally turn on the DS, play for ten seconds, and have a great time. If you die (which you will), you can restart in half a second. It's an excellent game to travel with!

Final score: 9.5/10

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This article was originally published on Joystiq.