R.I.P. little stick ninja. That’s, uh, Rest In Pieces, in case you were wondering. Every time we’re hunted down by one of the game’s roaming circular foes, the ensuing electric zap sends us into a waiting mine and our little limbs are promptly kersplatapulted across the screen and into more foes, who think just hilarious to keep on frying our severed knees and elbows because… reasons.
There can be no doubting that N++ is the most hardcore of all the hardcore games, and that’s after developer Metanet decided to build in systems to ease up on our poor fingers. If you’re unfamiliar with the series (and with the ninja’s only previous PlayStation outing coming in the form of N+’s PSP port, you might well be), you pick an ‘episode’ and have 90 seconds to successfully guide your ninja to the exits of five levels. Yet even with input buffering factored in – instead of single-frame windows we now have between three and five frame grace periods for nailing the tricky jumps – that seemingly simple task is tougher than rubber chewing gum.
Simple systems lie at its core. While your sole inputs involve moving left and right and jumping, with those three buttons you’ll be bouncing off walls, sliding down surfaces and using angled flooring to cushion large drops and maintain momentum for screen-clearing leaps. It’s easy to learn but almost impossible to master.
The true test of a sequel is in how successfully its new systems and features slip into the familiar whole, and while we still have yet to try the deathmatch (though our four-player office races which culminate in the winning player morphing into a rocket and killing others bode well) the other key introductions shine. Some of the additions are so seamless that it’s hard to comprehend a time when N didn’t have, say, toggle mines.
But what puts the extra plus into the game? We’re sure Metanet would list a long line of small changes, but for us it’s the social aspects. Local co-op’s already eating up lunchtimes (levels where one player can only hit the exit switch by suiciding, letting the other player bag the glory, are genius) and weekly challenges, player-created and shared levels, and global leaderboards (with stage replays) grab PS4’s social-first philosophy with both stick hands.
You shouldn’t underestimate N++’s appeal just because it’s not considered ‘triple-A’. Its one-more-go factor is as strong as any game on PlayStation 4, and Metanet’s extra year-and-a-half of development time means the series will go out with a bang. And a sizzle. And many a squelchy splat.