Title: Neon Junctions
Developer: 9 Eyes Game Studio
Publisher: Ratalaika Games S.L.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Puzzle, Trivia
Platform: Xbox One
Audience: PEGI 3
Price: £4.99 – Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
Stylish and atmospheric. Plain and simple. Indeed, these may appear to be incomprehensible contrasts when positioned side-by-side. However, this is what makes Neon Junctions a game, unlike any other.
Its neon-soaked, Tron (1982) aesthetics dazzle, but the lack of detail in the environments prevent this title’s visuals from blowing minds in a manner more befitting Scanners (1981).
Requiring platforming and puzzle-solving to work in tandem demonstrates Neon Junctions’ desire to wear its puzzle-platformer attributes on its metaphorical sleeve, yet the game offers an experience far too short and devoid of a challenge to warrant repeat playthroughs.
It is overwhelmingly clear to see that this is a game that was not expensive to bring to life. That being said, 9 Eyes Game Studio’s decision to embrace this rather than conceal it proves that a low budget game does not have to feel like a no-budget game.
For a puzzle-platformer to well and truly earn its stripes, both of the aforementioned double-barrelled elements need to take equal precedence in the gameplay. Therefore, consider Neon Junctions an undeniably worthy title.
With some puzzle solutions requiring a spot of light platforming, and some platforms only activating after completion of a puzzle, it is safe to say that one element cannot exist without the other. Thus, neither feel obsolete.
As previously discussed, there is not much to this game. Although some much-appreciated effort has gone into the inclusion of additional layers of interactivity to keep players on their toes as they progress through the game.
These additions take the forms of circuit ball transportation and switch activation. While not particularly complicated, there is also no worry of being overwhelmed, making Neon Junctions accessible to all.
However, one area in which more effort should have been directed is the movement. Unlike its contemporaries in the puzzle-platformer genre, waltzing through the titular neon junctions feels stunted and awkward.
As to be expected in a game that demands precise jumps on occasion, this can be an issue. While having players glide gracefully through the game world would have tipped the scales towards the other extreme, a middle ground surely could not have been difficult to reach.
Neon Junctions may not feature a sprawling world due to its low budget, but it is still able to incorporate a retro style that puts hipsters to shame.
The synthwave soundtrack calls back to the chart-toppers of the 80s and is equally delightful to modern ears. Even better still, the music instils a great sense of progression by changing tracks after a certain number of levels. Therefore, no one track outstays its welcome.
Alongside the audio, Neon Junction’s visuals also serve a practical purpose. The Tron-esque neon highlights contrast with the darker areas of each environment to provide both a stunning vista and highlight important objects.
Consequently, only a brief opening tutorial is necessary for players to fully get a handle on the possible solutions to most of the game’s puzzles. Building on this, there is no need to hold the player’s hand, making for victories that feel well-earned.
On occasion, the simplicity of Neon Junctions can function more as a detriment to the game’s quality.
For example, not only is the overall experience lacking in length and challenge, but there is also a disappointing drought of post-game content. The only reward presented to the players determined enough to finish the game is a congratulatory message.
Unfortunately, the only demographic who are likely to feel compelled to dive in for second helpings is the speedrunning community. Neon Junctions encourages speedy completion of each of its brief levels which many speed runners are sure to see as a welcome challenge.
However, in stepping up to the metaphorically implied plate, there is no guarantee that any degree of satisfaction awaits at the secondary finishing line.
In conclusion, Neon Junctions is a simple game both functionally and stylistically with just enough to prevent it from boring its consumers. However, by embracing its simplicity, this title takes a bold step that none would have ever suspected.
Accessibility, for instance, is no issue. As players progress through the game, more gameplay elements are added in the name of variation. However, they do not exceed what gamers are already used to from the game, meaning that they can get to grips with them instantaneously.
Furthermore, the majority of the game’s environments are a depressing black with a splash of neon-soaked colour here and there. That being said, this contrast highlights essential objects in a bid to show needless and tedious tutorials the digital door.
If there is one thing that the information cited above validates, it is that a low budget should not be perceived as a mark of death, but rather as a challenge that should be welcomed with a cocky grin. The challenge has been issued Indie Devs, so show us what you can do.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase Neon Junctions from the Microsoft Store on the following link, https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/p/neon-junctions/9pbkjxmh6k11?activetab=pivot:overviewtab
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.