Ratalaika is back with yet another new game to add to their long list of releases with Neon Junctions, and yes, if you’re wondering, the achievements are very easy to obtain, and can all be obtained fairly quickly. Wasting little time, Neon Junctions doesn’t come with a story or any added fluff. It’s a short puzzle game that’s not trying to be anything else, but, that’s not to say that it’s a good game, because in truth, it’s as boring and as dull as they come. Unless you fancy a stress-free, challenge-free, mindless trek, skip this one by entirely.
The game is served as a first-person puzzle platformer, one that’s imbued with an atmosphere and presentation that screams a classic 80s vibe. You take on the role of a nobody, and are tasked with making it through over thirty levels of nonsense puzzle solving. I say that, because, well, puzzles should be difficult, right? Here, they’re far too easy, so much so it comes across borderline insulting. There’s no innovation, there’s no structure, there’s few mechanics, and the game’s difficulty curve is all over the place as a result.
Whatever the case, you’ll spawn onto each level at a starting point, and must simply make it to the level’s exit point. To do that, you’ll need to gather conductive cubes and place them on circuit paths to conduct an electrical current to power a portal; necessary to complete a level. This is the crux of play throughout, and it rarely ever deviates from that overly simple concept. Sure, the odd new mechanic is thrown into the mix, but even here, the game tends to recycle its few ideas over and over to the point of boredom. It’s lazy, to be quite frank.
Starting out, the game does a decent job at feeding you into the basics of play; how to pick up the cubes, how to place them down in the correct order, and where to go to escape to the next area. There’s no knocking the game for its accessibility, that’s for sure, but, I’m not entirely comfortable looking at that as a pro in the face of the game’s many cons. Still, I suppose I should at least give it a cookie for getting something right, correct? Moving on. Each level takes no more than a minute or two to run through due to the lack of difficulty.
The solutions to each problem usually stares you in the face the moment you come up against them. Each level has a neon-lit electrical pathway, usually leading from a power point to an exit point. These pathways are often broken up, and you’ll need to gather the conductive cubes from around the environment to fill in the breaks in an attempt to ensure that the electrical current is navigating in the correct fashion. This consists of simply picking up cubes, and placing them on the breaks. It’s really as simple as that people. Honestly.
Sure, the game tries to get more complex later in. You may need to power a door or an elevator using an electrical current, or, place a power sphere in a power point to generate electricity, but outside of that, there’s very little on show. The game relies too heavily on tactics that fail to promote any forward thinking. I’m not the brightest bulb in the packet, but even I sailed through this with no troubles whatsoever. Trust me, if I can sail through this, a baby chimp can sail through this. It’s a shame really, because it had some potential.
Later on in, the game’s levels become more baffling to observe; puzzles on ceilings, puzzles that require you to feed electricity through walls and barriers, and even doorways that prevent access if you’re holding and cubes. The problem, however, is that despite the shift in complexity as far as a level’s layout is concerned, the solution to any problem is still painfully obvious. The developer should have spent more time focusing on making the journey more innovative across the board, rather than just aesthetically. It’s too damn easy!
One of the final levels saw me staring at several elevators. In order to get by, I simply needed to power the elevators that bridged the starting point to the exit point, via gathering a few cubes that had been conveniently stuffed to the right of spawn. That, ladies and gents, is one of the later levels, and no, things don’t really get more difficult than that. I’ll credit the developer for trying, but in the face of the many puzzle games that are already available, those come with a decent challenge, I struggle to see Neon Junctions’ appeal.
On top of that, there’s no replay value at all. Most puzzle games in this day and age get by through implementing endgame content in one form or another, but here, it’s a one and done affair. Essentially, once you’ve run through the game once, which will likely take you no more than an hour, you’ve nothing else to do. Then again, for its fairly generous price, you’re just about getting your money’s worth, but when you can get much better elsewhere for roughly the same cost, what true incentive is there to blindly sit back and purchase?
In regards to the game’s visual and audio presentation, Neon Junctions is fairly hit and miss. Whilst the visuals are certainly serviceable, there’s very little detail on show, and almost no variation whatsoever. This makes for a trek, however short it may be, that comes across too samey-samey throughout play. It would have been nice to see some diversity in this regard, but sadly, that’s not what we’re getting. The audio is equal to that, putting out generic cues that do little to excite. Bottom line? I would only recommend this to achievement hunters.
Neon Junctions is a bad game for a range of different reasons. Not only are the solutions to its puzzles insultingly straightforward throughout the entirety of play, but its sheer lack of depth, together with its habit of constantly recycling the same ideas, ultimately makes for a very boring, tedious affair. If you’re in the market for new puzzle platformer, look elsewhere, because Neon Junctions falls flat on both fronts, and more besides.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.