N+ is the first XBLA game that I’ve bought. It’s a platformer in its purest form: your only controls are a joystick for movement and a jump button. Each level is a single screen: you start at one point on the screen, there’s an exit somewhere else, and a button that opens up the exit in a third place. The levels are much less left-to-right and involve much more vertical movement than, say, a classic Super Mario Bros. level: they don’t typically have a ground at the bottom as an important component, and you have a wall jump to help you reach higher areas. There are some enemies: the most important are stationary bombs, but there are also moving bombs, and missiles that track you. (You can also die if you fall far enough, though if you’re next to a wall then you can use it to brake.)

The levels are pleasantly challenging while, generally, fair; I had to play many of them over and over again, but I usually felt that dying was my fault rather than the level designers’ fault: if I could just get my movements executed properly, I’d be able to finish the level, and the levels are short enough that you don’t have to retrace your steps much at all.

The graphics style is very bare-bones, which worked just fine: you’re a stick figure (albeit one with amusing death animations: exploding stick-figure limbs setting off a further chain of bomb explosions can be quite charming), there are no textures to speak of, the enemies are the most basic of sprites. All of which just serves to emphasize the pure platformer nature of the game: it’s all about making your jumps, everything else is secondary.

I’m quite happy with it as my first XBLA experience. I didn’t finish the game, and in fact I only made it through about a third of the levels. But that third of the levels was a good 75 levels, and it was a lot cheaper than a retail game; I got my money’s worth, and if they’ll stick in more levels for people who are more obsessed with that sort of gameplay than I am, more power to them! There’s a free version, too (which came out before the XBLA version); I haven’t tried it out myself, but I’m sure the game play is extremely similar, if you’re curious about it.

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