Put on your seatbelt, fetch your aviators and experience what it feels like to have an acid trip in an 80’s automobile while racing down an obstacle filled speedway. Dodgin, blocks, pillars, space ships, heck, sometimes flying, sometimes running as an android mutation of your faithful vehicle. Welcome to Neon Drive.
Neon Drive is a splicing of the timing centric dodge-em up gameplay found in Canabalt or Temple Run, combined with a rhythm-racing game. Now, neither of those game types are anything I would normally choose to play – so shame on me for being the one who this review fell too. I rarely have the patience or timing for such games – does that make me a terrible person?
At it’s purest Neon Drive operates on simple directional-key inputs, mainly left and right. Each of the seven levels of the game start with a barrier dodging segment which operates on the left & right cursor keys. However, part way through the level the level completely shifts, with your car becoming a mech, or a plane, or a Galaga-style spacecraft, at this point the game retains it’s simplicity although all of the levels, and indeed often the button inputs, have changed.
The game tout’s itself as a “80’s inspired arcade game that will make your brain melt” and while it’s not going to turn grey-matter to goo it’s certainly doing a good job of delivering that hypnotic, hot-neon, TRON-style art design that seems to have become extremely popular of late. A nice touch is that you select which of the levels you want to play via arcade cabinets in the main menu. Unlike the mobile versions of the game you’ve immediately got access to all seven of the levels from the get go.
While I enjoyed some of the challenges in the levels -and the game mechanics shift was very novel- the game required a little bit too much movement, even on the easier levels, for me to play the game as easily as I would have liked. Several parts of the levels require you to launch yourself three moves left, or right, and with how tight and fast paced some of them are it’s extremely easy to mess those up. As well as this, many of the levels at times spend most of their time synched up perfectly to the soundtrack, the wonderful electronica soundtrack, the problem is that sometimes -like earlier Guitar Hero games- they seem to suddenly disregard what is going on musically and on screen and you get a few tiles, obstacles, or searing laser beams, which are out of synch with the song. And that, that is enough to cause someone to slip up and fail. You see, hitting two objects is failure, and that is dangerously easy to do in the long levels of Neon Drive
One thing that really surprised me with the game was the amount of graphic options available within its settings menu. You can dabble with the fog, reflections, bloom and even choose between anti-aliasing types. Oh – and it also has controller support off the bat.
Earlier on I name dropped Audio Surf, indeed that game does have an exceptionally strong legacy. While I’m no longer a fan of the genre in any meaningful way, I can imagine the younger me who enjoyed AS setting it down and putting Neon Chrome in it’s place. Sure, the game’s long levels only count to seven, but the three difficulties have major effects on the gameplay. If that’s really not enough content then there’s also the endurance mode, which is all seven levels back-to-back – your eyes and ears might be able to take it, but I doubt your fingers could.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to relax after a long day at work by having your brain turned to mush by neon lights and electronic music then I recommend you give Neon Drive a go, you won’t regret it.