So, we've covered quite a few games from this publisher recently. They've been making a name for themselves amongst gamers, as their low price titles are popular with the Achievement hunting crowd, and have been showing up in the store quite regularly over the past few months. They've released titles in a wide range of genres, covering everything from flight games and shmups, to RPGs and narrative adventure stories. This time though, it's the first person puzzler getting the Ratalaika treatment.
Now usually, this is where I'd set the scene, explain the story, the narrative, all that jazz. I can't really do that here however, because Neon Junctions has none of that stuff. No framing devices or explanations of the wheres and the whys. Instead, we are given a list of 35 levels to complete. That's it.
There is an overall aesthetic style pulling everything together though. They've gone for a look and sound called Synthwave, a retro-futuristic style that draws its inspiration from 80s movies and video games. Every level is constructed from neon coloured blocks, with purple being the dominant shade, and looks like a "Tron" style virtual world. The soundtrack also fits into this, with rather relaxing electronic beats and synthesizer sounds playing throughout. Whether you are into that or not, it’s never offensive or annoying, and overall the sci-fi stylings work well with the neon powered, circuit building gameplay you'll be taking part in.
Because that's what the main mechanic of the game is actually about. "Portal" has its portals, "Chromagun" has its colours, and "Neon Junction" is about neon lit circuits. Like simple electrical circuits, I mean, but with lights.
Let me explain.
So, when you begin, the game does a good job of explaining the basics of gameplay. Located in the aforementioned 80s styled, neon lit VR world, you'll spawn in at a beginning point and have to leave via an exit teleporter. Obviously, there's slightly more to it than that though. You see, many of the teleporters or doors require power first, and working out how to provide that is the main gameplay hook. As you explore, you'll quickly realise what's expected. Located somewhere on the level will be a generator, and leading from it, will be a conductive path made of blue blocks. Think of them like metal bricks that can conduct electricity. When connected to the generator, or another powered block, these blue blocks will glow red, signifying that they are now active. If the red energy can make it all the way from the generator to the teleporter, it'll power up, allowing you to leave the level. Most of the time however, these premade conductive paths will have gaps, and it's up to you to complete the circuit. Hidden around the level will be blocks that can be collected, and these usually require a little platforming to find, but after being picked up, they can be placed in certain allowable places. You'll usually have a limited amount, and you'll have to work out the most effective way to complete the conductive path, allowing the flow of energy to open the exit.
Simple, right? Well, yes...
And that's the problem with Neon Junction. It's really easy. I mean, maybe not as easy as I'm pretending, but honestly, not by much. Sure, as you advance, the levels do become more complex, and new obstacles are introduced. The paths will begin to go up walls and along ceilings, but also through walls and obstacles, obscuring where it comes out. Sometimes the generator will need a core, meaning you need to find that first. Other times, many generators are needed, or switches must be powered as well. Force fields that stop you if you're carrying blocks are introduced, but no matter the layout, the basic solution can be worked out fairly quickly. I mean, I'm no Einstein, and I was able to beat this in around 30-45 minutes, and if you use an online guide, you could probably do it MUCH quicker. All of the puzzles have only one solution and rely on you powering preplaced objects, like doors and lifts, in a certain order to progress. There's no Minecraft style redstone devices to build here, no new blocks are introduced, no pistons or timers or anything like that. If you think you'll be able to build interesting and complex solutions to the problem, you'll be sorely disappointed. Forward thinking isn't really needed, there are no creative alternative solutions to find, instead carrying out the same simple steps are all that's required, every time.
If you're looking for a good puzzle game, there are many alternatives that are WAY better. If, however, you're just looking for an easy 1000pt addition to your gamerscore, this IS probably a good purchase. Because let's be honest, that's the games real purpose, it's a cheap, quick game for boosting your gamerscore. Nothing more.
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of this review.
Final Score: 3/10
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