America - Front
America - Back
By Adam Cartwright 25th Jun 2019 | 3,050 views
Neon seems to be in vogue lately – look no further than its constant presence at festivals this year, or its resurgence in videogames thanks to things like Far Cry: Blood Dragon and Hotline Miami. A new puzzler from 9 Eyes Game Studio and Ratalaika Games is the latest title to embrace this influence and I was intrigued to find out if the product itself channelled neon’s vibrant energy to make a worthwhile experience or if it was merely a cash grab chasing trends (which wouldn't surprise me given the nature of the developer's previous title, Planet RIX-13).
Neon Junctions is a first-person puzzler where you need to connect an electricity source to a teleporter along power lines in order to escape to the next level. This is done using cubes to bridge any breaks in the connection. Cubes are found scattered all over each area and can be picked up with the triangle or R buttons, while placing them is done with the square or L buttons, in a manner that feels very much like Minecraft. In terms of interacting with the environment, this is just about all you can do, although there is a small element of 3D platforming as you’ll occasionally need to leap between blocks or ledges to reach where you want to go.
The game introduces you to its ideas slowly and the first handful of levels merely involve poking around to find the cubes and then bringing them back to fill in the gaps in the cable to connect the power source. It’s not too long before more complex ideas come into play, though. For example, there are purple doorways that you can’t carry cubes through, meaning you have to solve things on either side, and moving platforms can be operated by supplying them with power and paused by eliminating the power supply.
The game is at its best when it’s experimenting around the edges of its level design to make you think creatively about how to proceed. One map is covered with cubes on the ground and you can't see the teleporter, for instance, until you go digging through the mass of cubes to find a secret underground tunnel that reveals the next stage of the puzzle. Another favourite level of mine involved carefully balancing along fences to move between platforms – figuring this one out involves taking a step back and scanning the whole area to figure out where you can actually walk, so that you can get to where you need to go.
Although there is a fair amount of 3D platforming in Neon Junctions, the main focus is definitely on the puzzles. It's similar to Portal in that respect, in that it’s functional but not by any means a major selling point, and sometimes the jump button won't quite trigger properly, leading to some frustrating failures.
Unfortunately, this is where Neon Junctions fell a bit flat for me; while I was sometimes challenged, it was unfortunately more common to find that the solution was fairly straight forward and that I flew through the game, making it quite one dimensional. That said, the final few levels encourage a little more thinking, ensuring that the title ends on a high note.
Thankfully, the presentation is strong throughout, ensuring I was never bored actually looking at the game. Despite consisting of a fairly simple set of vector mesh backgrounds, plus blue and orange coloured blocks, there’s a nice 80s vibe to this combination that I personally really enjoyed. It’s all accompanied by a fantastic synthwave soundtrack that really fits the rest of the aesthetic, ensuring that I had the music cranked to maximum while playing.
It won’t take you too long to finish Neon Junctions – a couple of hours at most, and there are unfortunately no collectables or hidden secrets to encourage returning to completed levels. On the upside its low pricepoint means that it's an appropriately priced experience that should last you an afternoon.
At the end of the day, I had fun playing Neon Junctions. It didn’t blow my socks off, but it's a fun little puzzler, and as long as you temper your expectations I’m sure most of you will have a good time with it too.