Saturday, March 17

Review: Neonwall [Nintendo Switch eShop]

One of the greatest thing about indie games is that they try new, and often unusual, twists on genres. Different in the larger and more traditional market is risky in the world of big AAA budgets but for small and more nimble developers it is a great way to stand out. With an opening admission that I’m a sucker for the neon colors and aesthetics of the TRON universe I’ll say that Neonwall quickly caught my eye and attention. With its action puzzler focus and unique feel while it may not be for everyone credit is due for making something distinctive.

The object in the game is to get your ball to the end of a track. You’re unable to directly interact with it to help control it’s path but indirectly you can alter its color and surprisingly that somewhat limited interaction is sufficient to drive the whole game. What makes it work is that there are specific elements on the track that each have their own behaviors and variants of the colors as well. What color the ball is will determine how those sections of track then behave. If you’re on a blue segment and your ball is blue, it will move faster; if your ball is another color and it will move slower. Walls will only drop for a ball that’s the same color and floor sections will only support the same color. As things progress you’ll also need to shoot specific sections but you can only do so by firing at them with the right color. As these different elements are slowly introduced in subsequent tracks you typically have time to become accustomed to their function and use and then the challenge begins when they start to be combined in different orders and ways.

While there aren’t a tremendous number of levels in the game as a whole once things get rolling expect to be challenged and even frustrated. Keeping on top of the ball’s current color, what color it will need to be next, and what elements you may need to deal with before it gets there can get pretty intense. This is where control comes into play and I’d say neither supported scheme is necessarily perfect but both are workable. Using the analog sticks to control your two pointers probably feels a bit more precise overall but certainly the more rapid rate of movement using pointer controls is a plus. Unfortunately with pointer controls that rapid movement often comes at the cost of consistent accuracy as “center” will inevitably wander as it does with most games, sometimes making you contort a bit to keep control.

All in all Neonwall is an interesting bite of inventiveness that may be over a bit too soon but also doesn’t overstay its welcome. Its slow and consistent slope of added difficulty, with new elements being introduced consistently throughout the majority of the game, manages to keep you engaged and in a “just one more try” kind of way. More than just its cool aesthetics, it delivers a gameplay experience I’m interested to see more takes on in the future.

Score: 7.5

  • Cool aesthetics
  • A pretty steady progression in difficulty
  • Once new elements are introduced they’re quickly combined to create new challenges

  • Neither control scheme is without its flaws
  • Fighting to keep track of which color is currently mapped to which side can be aggravating at times