Free For All - N

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You often hear the phrase “simply brilliant” tossed around, usually as just another way to say something is really good. What it should mean is that something is brilliant, but in a simple way. This is how I view today’s game, N.
Released in 2004, N defines simplicity. The current version is only a 1.4 MB download; in English, that is VERY small - your average length songs are typically larger.

The game has a back-story - because why not? Basically, you are a ninja who strives to find gold and get to the exit, but it will not be an easy journey. As you progress through the levels, drones, missiles, lasers, and other things will try to stop you. Also, mines. And gravity. The game is kind enough to give you a counter that shows how many times you have died to each enemy. Expect the gravity one to be high.

Did I mention the mines?

The game is split in to 100 episodes and within each episode are 5 levels that you must make it through before your time runs out (500 levels. Really). It’s not as bad as it sounds, however; as said before, your ninja needs gold, and this gold will increase your time by two seconds each. Usually, there is plenty of gold to collect, but running out of time is certainly possible, especially with the difficulty of some levels.Episodes are divided in to columns of 10, and you can tackle any column you want, unlocking more episodes as you complete them. When you finish an entire column, you unlock different colors for your ninja, including the background color, just in case you don’t think the game is hard enough.Metanet was smart in how they handled the difficulty progression. As expected, each column gets harder as you progress through it, and each column is slightly harder than the last. Fortunately, the earlier levels of each column are fairly easy, which allows you to take a breather if you get stuck on a particular episode. This is a great anti-frustration feature, and something more games need.

As stated, this game gets rather difficult. When you first start, you may think the game will be easy. And, well, it is. At first. What this game does is allow you to get used to everything, and gradually introduce you to the various enemies and perilous situations. You will grow to hate certain enemies, if not all of them. I particularly hate the missile launchers, though after playing Focus, they aren’t so bad. Those chaingun drones can go to hell though.

N also comes with a level creator, which, as the developers admit, is not entirely user friendly. Thankfully, it doesn’t take long to get used to, especially with the onscreen guides. Though complicated, it includes everything that is featured in the main game, This is something that I have always wanted - other games have level editors, but they were never all that great compared to main game levels, mostly because your options were editor specific pieces. In N, you could recreate every level if you wanted to. That would be stupid, but hey.

But, in the immortal words of Billy Mays, that’s not all. The game also comes with a lot of user levels. As well, there is a website where the community can upload their levels for others to use. Quite near literally, this game has unlimited levels, with the only boundary being a player’s imagination.

I should also mention that user created levels are saved as text, which you copy and can save elsewhere. This is part of why the game is so damn tiny, and why the custom level community is still active. No downloads, no logging in to anything. Just a simple copy and paste.

The editor. Top box of gibberish is the level in text form.


After the success of N, it later received a sequel of sorts in the form of N+, a graphically enhanced version released for the XBox Live Arcade and later ported to the DS and PSP. Personally, I did not like it as much, mainly because, at least in the DS version, the camera was zoomed close on to the ninja, whereas in N you see the entire level. Although the top screen did show the map, it was a smaller, less detailed version. I do still find it a fun game, so if you see it in a bargain bin somewhere you should pick it up.

There also exists around the web flash versions of N. They are smaller - only having 30 episodes - and feature a far less updated version of N. Also, these versions are not looked at with kind eyes by Metanet as they violate the game’s license agreement. Thus, I will not advocate playing these versions.

There isn’t a lot to N, but at the same time, there is. Only two main colors for levels, grey and darker grey, a simple looking ninja, and gold. Because of this game’s simplicity, it is able to be much more than what it is on the surface. That is to say, N is simply brilliant.

Related posts:

  1. Free For All - Impasse
  2. Free For All - Focus

About auzura

Gamer, writer, and sarcastic ass. Writer of 'Free For All', a series that highlights great games that also happen to be free. Is currently at war with the job market and will one day vanquish it, leading to a better computer that will allow video production.