Neo ATLAS 1469
Switch version tested
Review code provided
If you were of an age in 1985 you may have just come out of the cinema having watched Back to the Future, returned home, booted up your NEC PC and had yourself a game of A-Train. You may not have heard of A-Train however it is developer Artdink’s best known, and most successful, game to date. Artdink has gone on to develop a plethora of games, many of which never made it to western audiences, for the last 23 years. Now in the games industry that is an impressive amount of time, these guys must be good then, right?
Neo Atlas 1469 is a – get ready for this – port of a PlayStation Vita game, which in itself was a port of a Neo Atlas 2 remaster, which initially was released way back in 1999 on the original PlayStation.
What is it then? Well how do I begin, it’s kind of a strategy, resource management, exploration, yet almost educational board game like-a-thon. The premise is that you are the leader of a shipping company, whereas you must make money, fulfil royal requests and essentially discover the world, namely Japan. Starting the game with a map displaying the known world – Europe and a bit of Africa, you must recruit admirals, trade goods, kill pirates, kill mythical beasts and discover new places and artefacts.
It all sounds really rather good if you’re into this type of thing. And do you know what? it really isn’t too bad. The game is best controlled with the touch screen rather than opting for physical controls. Zooming in to find discoveries and navigating around the map just feels much smoother and far more intuitive than using the analogue sticks. Cycling through countless sections of dialogue by tapping your finger is also less annoying than the constant click you would have to make with the buttons because believe me there is an awful lot of needless dialogue.
The feeling of discovery in opening up areas of the map is genuinely a great hook, yet the gameplay loop gets tiresome, mainly due to the slow progress, which in turn is due to the incessant talking the characters do. Graphically, it’s functional, Neither pretty or offensive. Music, on the other hand, is possibly the worst I have ever heard in a game, allow me to explain.
Back in 1985 many of us who were in school had to watch, on occasion, TV programs specifically made for schools. Now this BBC 2 schools shite, which was allegedly in some way educational, was made on a budget which I can only assume was akin to the budget for Susan Boyle’s cosmetics purchases. Music in these programs had no budget, it was clearly based upon, find the nearest spastic with a Casio keyboard and allow them to randomly hit the keys until their batteries run out, or until the sunshine variety coach comes back to pick them up. This is the best way in which I can describe the quality of the soundtrack this game offers. Whilst I’m mentioning the crappy bits, the tutorial is over an hour long.
Regardless of the negatives, Neo Atlas is a great game to play in short 20 minute blasts and almost the perfect game for a long drawn-out shit. You obviously have to like this style of game and mute the music, at its current price of £38 however its simply not worth it, I’d say wait for it to drop into a sale and give it a go.