N++3After years of development, Toronto’s Metanet Software has finally released the closing chapter of the studios’ N series, N++.

So is the game worth the lengthy wait? Definitely. But it does have one glaring flaw – a complete lack of online multiplayer (although custom built levels can be shared online).

Metanet opted to include online level sharing in N++ rather than online multiplayer, a feature that was a significant aspect of N+ on the Xbox 360 as well as a big part of why the game was such a critical success. Implementing online multiplayer in a reflex-focused game where latency is extremely important and is both time consuming and expensive, so Metanet made the difficult decision to focus on improving other parts of the N series.

I initially found it difficult to wrap my head around the fact that my favourite feature from N+ wouldn’t be making a return. But after a few hours with the game, I slowly realized Metanet’s decision to concentrate on other aspects of N++’s development paid off.

1- Level sharing is (almost) as good as online multiplayer

While N++ doesn’t include the online multiplayer mode, I wish it did, online level sharing is a big part of the game.

I’m not particularly interested in building my own levels (I don’t have the patience or the expertise). But I certainly enjoy the idea of playing the awesome creations other people have put together. N++’s 2360 levels created by the Metanet are already inventive and devious, and it will be interesting to see what fans create now that the game is out in the wild.

Uploading a custom level can be performed with only a few button presses, and the download process is just as simple. While the game has only been out for a few weeks, there are already a variety of crazy looking levels out there. For example this one is so expertly designed that it basically plays itself (sort of).

Level sharing means that N++ never actually ends. Once you finish the game’s massive campaign there’s an active online community creating an almost endless array of ultra-difficult stages.

A significant reason of why so many people are excited for Super Mario Maker is the game’s extensive level creation tool, and N++’s stage editor is just as comprehensive, if not more so.

2- Local co-op is much more “cooperative”

N++ doesn’t have online multiplayer but the game’s cooperative mode is much more extensive than what was included in N+. You could even argue playing online on separate televisions (without voice chat) would be nearly impossible.

Many of the game’s levels require players to work together closely and involve holding switches to open up unaccessible areas, sacrificing the life of one co-op partner so the rest can make it through an area of a level, and also distracting enemies while your friends make their escape. The simple hints located in the bottom right corner of the screen also help me make sense of some of N+’s harder stages.

It’s difficult to excuse N++’s lack of online multiplayer, but in an age where couch co-op is nearly non-existent (even Halo 5 is set to not include local multiplayer), the fact that N++’s multiplayer has been designed from the ground up with local play in mind, is a refreshing change of pace.

The game’s new deathmatch and race modes are also great co-op gaming fodder. Since the release of TowerFall Ascension on the PS4 I’ve been looking for a new local co-op party game and it seems N++ fills this role perfectly.

3- N++’s minimalistic visuals and gameplay are even more powerful

Don’t expect a huge visual overhaul with N++. The game adopts the same minimalist graphical aesthetic as N and N+, only with a few additional flourishes.

Explosions are more detailed, Metanet has given players the ability to change the game’s shading, and enemies are just as menacing and vibrant as they were in the first N.

But where N++ truly shines is in the gameplay department. The series has always stripped gaming back to its core fundamentals, forcing players to rely on timing, reflexes and relentless perseverance. But unlike N+, which ramped up the difficulty level almost instantly, N++ introduces players to the basics of the N series in a gradual way, which will help new players jump into the series more seamlessly.

In N++ it’s just you, your ninja and a series of obstacles separating your on-screen avatar from reaching the end of a level. The same almost strange sense of focus players of previous N titles likely experienced as they bounded over objects and around enemies, all with perfect timing, is back in N++.

When you hit a rhythm in N++, just like any other title in the N series, a sense of “gaming zen” starts to creep into the experience that no other title since the original N and N+ has been able to match. The game’s superb level design, which takes inspiration from older N titles, and also introduces a number of new challenges, also helps affirm N++’s status as one of gaming’s best platformers.

N++ is great gaming at its most fundamental level and certainly worth giving a shot.

N++ costs $19.99 as is only available on the PlayStation 4.

Find Patrick O’Rourke on Twitter.