Mandarth’s Cavern
Danger – reading this blog can be fatally addictive.

Review 3- N

I am a rather fickle person, often prone from jumping from one game to the next, leaving the one I was just playing stranded like a obese person at the bottom of a slightly steep flight of stairs. However,every so often a game comes along that I will continue to play forever. The sort of game that if I am ever bored while working, or have a few minutes free time, will always be number one on my list of pointless time-wasting things to do. Over the years, there has only been 4 of these games for me: Grand Theft Auto-San Andreas, Unreal Tournament 2004, Black and N. Seeing as three of these games involve stylised Hyper Violence, I imagine that at this point the Sesame Street Song “One of These Things is Not Like the Others…” is being played loudly in the back of your mind. So, if you will, please turn of the proverbial orchestra and let me explain myself.

N is the sort of game that I could play for hours. If ever I should be doing work, I play N instead. If, at 3am, I have still yet to start an essay that is due in 6 hours, I turn straight to N for distraction. If I ever begin the realise that I am about as far removed from attractive single women that would date me as Michael Jackson is from the Wiggles, N arrives to comfort me. You probably don’t know where I’m going with this, and probably neither do I, except to say that this entire paragraph is a lead up to a rather blunt statement that I think we can all appreciate and understand: N Is Good. Very Good In-fact. So with out further ado, lets get into the facts.

N, created and designed by Metanet Software, is of a genre I class as Puzzle-Platforming-Action, and shares a similar feel to such older games as Jetpack and Lode Runner. This game does something different to most of the games that I review as it attempts to add a story (*COUGH*) to explain away the stupidity of the setting. You play as a small, apparently malnourished, Ninja who suffers from a bizarre disease that I like to call Kleptomanic-Mortitis, meaning that all the bones in our hero will will spontaneously break out of sheer greed after 90 seconds if he doesn’t steal small pieces of gold. You are thus tasked with ensuring that he completes a series of obstacle riddled levels, stealing so much treasure that it would put a Middle Eastern Dictator to shame. That’s it. But hey, you can afford to have a story as weak and hastily thrown together as the Last Indiana Jones Film when you have game play this fun and addictive (Can you say ‘Desperate Grab for Cash’ Mr Lucas?).

Game play is set in a series of bizarre rooms filled with everything from roving laser eyes to electrified robots. Playing as your ninja, your main objective is to navigate these obstacles to reach the switch to open the door for the end of the level. However, grabbing as much gold as you can should also be of concern. The Game is split up into 100 episodes, each containing 5 levels (That’s 500 levels!). When you begin the first level of an episode, a clock begins to count down from 90 seconds. Each bit of gold increases your time by 2 seconds. That might not seem like much, but it all adds up. But here’s the trick: The time in which you finish a level is then carried over to the next. For example, if i finished the first level with 40 seconds to spare, I would then have 40 seconds to complete the next level. The same is true if i had 200 seconds to spare. Now, the first 20 or so episodes are easy enough to complete because gold offers itself as freely to the player as a drunk girl at a university bar, but pretty soon you will find yourself going out of the way to get gold, to give you those few precious extra seconds in the next level.

Our Brave Hero Clambers Up The Wall To Eternal Glory. Or Certain Death...

Our Brave Hero Clambers Up The Wall To Eternal Glory. Or Certain Death...

The path to the end of each level is always strewn with challenges, and as such your Narky little Ninja has an extensive repertoire of acrobatic skills. He can run ridiculously fast, jump half a level in a single bound, survive great falls, wall jump, wall slide and other skills of sheer unbridled ninja awesomeness. All of these moves are very easy to pull off and, in the hands of an experienced player, these skills can make for some amazing game play moments, such as recklessly jumping around a level, stealing hundreds of bits of gold, as you are chased by 6 heat seeking missiles. But don’t worry all those new comers! As there are 500 official levels, the learning curve is perfect to get into the swing of things. This doesn’t meant the game is easy though. Far from it actually. It just means that by the time it becomes keyboard breaking, frustratingly hard, you will know all the moves to help you finish. You might think that a game that causes people to have compulsive strokes over the sheer difficulty of a level might not be a good game at all, but N seems to have this little spark that keeps you replaying the level again and again till you get it right, even if you cant feel the left side of your face afterwards. Oh, and for all you crybabies out there that cant handle the pressure of making a precise jump through a minefield while being shot at by Gauss guns with only 7 seconds to go before death, there is an option to turn off the timer. But be warned, your score will not be registered, and the episode will not show up as being completed, simply ‘finished.’

A word on level design must now be said. In fact, lets go for 2: Expansively Varied. Over the 500 official levels, there was never a time that I came across a level that was the same as one of the others that came before it. Each episode brings something new to the table, whether it be a race against floating eyes or rocket launcher dodging fun. Levels cycle between situations where it is simply a race against the clock, to precision movement based tasks, to obstacle avoidance challenges to caves shaped like the face of Che Guevara. I have been playing this game for around a year now, and I am still finding new levels that I haven’t seen before. There is simply that many.

If this Isn't a Varied Level, I Don't Know What Is!

If This Isn't A Varied Level I Don't Know What Is!

Now, notice how before I said there were 500 Official Levels. If you didn’t catch on, that means that there is unofficial levels as well. The game itself comes with around 50 of the best user created levels around. These present even more types of game play, such as experimental levels. I recommend you check out those marked DDA levels, or Don’t Do Anything. All you have to to is click start and enjoy the ride. Some of them are so Fiendishly Clever, they deserve the capital letters I just gave them. All these levels don’t come from nowhere, they come from the in game level editor that is surprisingly easy to use. Anything you see in the game can be made in the editor as it contains every block, every enemy, every trap and every obstacle that you have beaten in the game. I admit that it could be a bit more streamlined, but hey, the games Free! The addition of user created levels, and the ability to make and share levels with your friends, makes this game extremely re-playable.

Don't Be Afraid To Try A Risky Move, Even If It Does Involve Jumping Towards A Forest Of Death Mines...

Don't Be Afraid To Try A Risky Move, Even If It Does Involve Jumping Towards A Forest Of Mines...

So, this is my love letter to N. Some may hate it, may find it too difficult. But I say its fine the way it is. It has everything you could possibly look for in a time waster: Hundreds of levels, Challenges, a degree of difficulty, its fun to play, it has ninjas and ‘bitchin’ ninja moves, almost infinite re-playability and the ability to create your own levels. It could only be greater if there were Pirates. It offers something for any type of time waster. Enjoy a challenge? Play N. Want a platform-esqe gaming experience that has more challenge than the staples, such as Mario? Play N. Are you the freak that likes to make their own creations and show them to ‘The World,’ rather than actually play the game? Play N. And Get out of the basement and get some Sunlight you freakish Vampire.

Mandarth Out!

Tips for Playing.

  • As with Warning Forever, You will Die. Get over it.
  • Don’t be afraid to attempt a risky move, but don’t be to hasty either. The penalty is usually a one way trip to Explody McFucked Up-Ville
  • Hesitation usually gets you killed
  • Please, do not break your computers in frustration
  • Look out for N’s Sequel, N+, available to download from Xbox Live.
  • If you make any levels, post them as word documents in the comments. Then ‘The World’ can enjoy them. Just get a tan.

Mandarth’s Challenge

  • Here’s a tricky one. Go to the User Created Levels and find the level Called ‘Brain N-Bolism.’ Its under the category ‘V-Hard.’ Finish this and you are the proverbial Jesus of N. Or you don’t have a life…

Download N From Here!

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