If there’s one thing I love in a game, it’s 80s inspired, neon art styles – and what do you know? The word ‘Neon’ is literally in the title of the game!
Before I go further, it’s worth pointing out that this game can be played in two formats: in VR, or as a standard game – I chose to play it as a standard game and so this review doesn’t take into account how that game plays in VR.
Neonwall is an updated, console spin on the ‘colour-matching’ puzzle genre that has been taking the mobile market by storm. You have to guide a small, yo-yo-like ball across, what is essentially an obstacle course, using the game’s colour changing mechanics to solve puzzles and to improve your completion time.
However, comparing this title to similar titles on mobile is completely pointless. Neonwall is vastly more fleshed out and engaging than the ‘throwaway’, 30-second games that crop up on mobile. And it also adds mechanics to the game that make it more challenging and complex.
As mentioned earlier, the main gameplay mechanic revolves around changing the orbs’ colour in order to progress through the course. But, Neonwall mixes this up by adding things like launch pads, locked doors and temporary bridges which all correspond to the colour chosen (One of three standard colours: Red, Green or Blue).
A unique addition to these changes is the game’s moveable platforms: These platforms can only be moved and interacted with their corresponding colours, but this doesn’t necessarily mean the orb has to match – you change the orb’s colour using two pistols and it’s with these that you interact with the environment, nicely adding to the complexity of Neonwall.
The game’s courses are split into two distinct modes: A puzzle mode where the goal is to simply get from A to B, traversing the course’s puzzles as you go – and time trial, a more pressured game mode where you must get from A to B while hitting checkpoints along the way, all whilst on the clock. These game modes aren’t too different, but do enough to shake up the game, making it more varied and less repetitive.
I’ve mentioned a few times so far that the game is complex, but this isn’t a bad thing. Neonwall guides you into its mechanics, and through its two game modes allows you to get used to the mechanics before things become too tricky. I say “too tricky” because the game is inherently difficult and can be frustrating at times (as is to be expected from a puzzle game), it lulls you into a false sense of security in the opening levels, before ramping the difficulty up in the late game – a double-edged sword as on the one hand I love a challenge, but on the other, if I get stuck on a particularly finicky level then my patience wears thin quickly.
One of my biggest issues with playing Neonwall just on the console is that it very much feels like it was made for VR first, with the standard version being a last-minute addition.
The interface is suited towards VR play (two guns constantly on screen with lasers pointing) and the camera angle at which you play, while it may be ideal for VR, can be restricting at times.
With that said, however, the problematic interface is more than made up for by the game’s aesthetic.
The simplistic, but, neon art style, is matched by an upbeat, techno soundtrack which works perfectly for a game such as this. The game’s narrative (Yes, there is an extremely loose narrative) follows this too – a gamer is sucked into an arcade machine during a storm and must utilise the game to escape.
Neonwall won’t be everyone’s cup of tea – it’s a simple looking, yet frustrating game, how could it not be divisive? But it is definitely worth checking out and I’ll be returning to this game to, hopefully, complete all of the course very soon!
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*