Switch version tested
Review code provided
Circuitry puzzles get a glow up in Neon Junctions
There’s been many a night when I’ve laid awake wondering what would happen if GLaDOS had played the hilariously over the top, 80s sci-fi and hammy as hell DLC to Far Cry 3, Blood Dragon. Well, now I don’t need to suffer any more sleepless nights as Neon Junctions from Ratalaika Games and 9 Eyes Game Studio has answered that question for me.
This isn’t my first experience of Ratalaika Games as I played and reviewed their locked box puzzle game, Access Denied, and like Access Denied, Neon Junctions is a very brief but simple affair. It has a mere 34 levels in comparison to the 36 in Access Denied and unlike Access Denied I can’t say that I ever felt truly stumped or confounded by any of the puzzles that Neon Junctions presented. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it though.
I liked the minimalistic 80’s neon levels that fully reminded me of the Blood Dragon title screen and the synthwave soundtrack reinforced that feeling, but there was always that lingering sense that if Cave Johnson and Aperture Science knew about it, they would be filing lawsuits or getting ideas for new test spheres.
Neon Junctions is not a complete carbon copy of Portal, and in some ways maybe I am being a bit unfair, but there was something about the gameplay that felt like a homage to GLaDOS’s test rooms. There is no portal gun and instead of companion cubes you have conductive cubes, which you collect and use to join up circuits which either power up the teleportation platform to the next level, or operate other objects such as lifts and doors.
The controls are about as basic as they come. A to jump and either the right bumper or trigger to collect a block and left bumper or trigger to place a block. Movement is done with the left and right sticks as standard – left to move about and right to look around. I did have to tinker with the sensitivity in the controls menu as the right stick was set to such high sensitivity as default that I’m amazed my cyberspace character wasn’t projectile vomiting as they whirlwinded round like a Themepark teacup!
In fact, my only major criticism of the game is its controls, more specifically the jumping. I’m not a huge fan of first-person platforming, in games like Dying Light I didn’t mind it so much as the free-running aspect was a bit forgiving here and there, and any platforming required in the Portal games was hugely assisted by the portal gun. But in Neon Junctions if you don’t hit jump at exactly the right moment you basically just lemming drop off the edge.
The jump command tended to feel like there’s a delay or a bit sticky and when some of the later puzzles actively rely on platforming in order to solve them, the controls become massively frustrating.
The difficulty curve isn’t as steep as some other puzzle games I’ve played, in fact it’s quite a nice gentle trot. However, it does introduce new challenges such as resistors which stops the current on the circuit, and the previously mentioned lifts and doors which need to be powered up so you can progress. These additions, while not massively taxing, all help to keep you interested and stop the puzzles from becoming too repetitive.
I will admit it took me a moment or two to realise that you either had exceptionally long arms or telekinetic power, as you could select and pick up the cubes from quite some distance away and you didn’t need to be rubbing your face up against them. Once I got into the swing of it, Neon Junctions was a fun and engrossing puzzle game. However, with only 34 levels it’s even shorter than Access Denied and I ploughed through it in about an hour or two.
Similar to Access Denied I’m not sure it offers much in the way of replayability. I know I’m mentioning Portal a lot here, but both Portal games offer something that some puzzle games don’t, a plot. Portal has a tangible storyline and a reason to solve the puzzles in front of you, Portal 2 even more so, and the introduction of Wheatley and Cave means that these are games that I will always go back to again and again.
With Neon Junctions there’s no real reason or motivation to complete a puzzle other than to see the next one and the reward for completing the game is also a bit of a letdown. At least I got a beautifully rendered cake in Access Denied! Perhaps you could do a speedrun and rack up a best time, but for me it’s very much a mobile game experience, play once, complete then delete.
Neon Junctions is a fun little puzzle platformer, the 80s aesthetic and soundtrack is eye-catching without being migraine inducing and gives the game a retro and nostalgic vibe, but the game itself is very brief. It’s sort of like doing a sudoku puzzle at a rave, once you’ve solved it you’ve solved it, but the lights and sounds are cool. The controls are a bit of hindrance, both twitchy and sticky and I’m unlikely to play it again but it was nice while it lasted.
TBG Score 6/10
Platform: PlayStation 4, PSVita Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 07/06/2019
No. of Players: 1
Category: Adventure, Puzzle
Developer: 9 Eyes Game Studio
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Download link: eShop