On N++ and Momentum

I remember Metanet’s N mostly as this weird interesting Flash game that was fascinating mostly because of its minimal presentation and, simply, because it was a side-on platformer at a time when very few people (that I knew of) were doing that. I remember N+, released on Xbox 360, as an enjoyable but also infuriating platformer that I felt like I was fighting against more often than playing.

My time so far with N++ since it was released yesterday has been one of satisfying flow and momentum. The way a level just perfectly cups your character from a fall that should kill you into a fast sprint. The way a ramp lets you double-jump perfectly through the designed gaps between the mines. The way a vertical wall is just a pixel high enough to tap your feet against to immediately shift the direction of your movement with a walljump.

With N++ I feel like I finally understand what N and N+ were doing (the pedagogical design of the early stages really helps this, I think). These are not games about movement but momentum. They are less about getting to a ‘top speed’ and more about increasing your speed consistently over a level. They are less about finishing a level as quickly as possible and more about finding that perfect current that is invisibly flowing between the surfaces and obstacles just waiting for you to find it.

Here is a video of my favourite stage so far. Trace the path of my avatar with your finger in these kind of figure-of-eight loops back and forward across the screen. I died a good thirty or forty times trying to bring these loops into performative and ephemeral life, of course, but once I did it, it felt so good. Note, also, the new enemy type of the shadow that follows you across the course. If this shadow comes in contact with you, you die. Such an enemy type fits so perfectly with the game as it forces you to keep moving but if you keep moving so will the shadow. It encourages the endless momentum the game wants to encourage. Really, each enemy type in the game is there to encourage particular kinds of movement and momentum.

Anyway, N++ is really good.

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