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Review: Neon Drive for PS4

Neon Drive from Fraoula has been out now for a couple of years on iOS and Android, last year it also came out for Steam on both Mac and PC. Now it’s finally out for the PS4 ($9.99) it’s the topic of our review today! Is Neon Drive firing on all cylinders or does this game have a flat? To find out, you’re going to need to fasten your seat belt and hold onto something, cause here we go!

The trailer below introduces you to the world of 80’s future racing that is Neon Drive!

I even have a break down of the game’s description and features to further pique your interest!

‘Description

Neon Drive is a slick retro-futuristic obstacle-dodging game that will make your brain melt. You’ve been warned.

Features
  • 8 levels, hundreds of obstacles, and infinite challenge
  • Breathtakingly beautiful and silky-smooth graphics
  • Custom-made retro synth music, perfectly in sync with the obstacles
  • Super addictive (Neon Drivers Anonymous support group available upon request ;-))
  • Includes exploding enemy spaceships, seriously!
  • If you can finish all 7 levels, we hereby certify you have superhuman abilities!’

Audio: 

The audio effects in this game are totally fun. The selection screens are full of nice little throw back sounds that pay homage to a day gone by. This is to be expected of course in a game that is entirely trying to evoke the feeling of the 80’s and that retro feel. But the one thing that I did not expect was an audio mechanic that was in the actual gameplay itself that I want to focus on. Upon starting a level for the first time just jumping right in and ignoring any of the other options (like I do), you’ll see that you have to figure out how to play the game on your own. And upon doing that you will most likely find that you can take exactly only one hit to your car. If you get hit more than once, you’ll be sent back to whichever last checkpoint. It’s that first hit to your car that I want to talk about because that mechanic could’ve broken the game if implemented incorrectly.

What Fraoula managed to do here was to have the car get hit, by a block or car or some other object, and so your car will stop. That also means that the music that this rhythm game is using in the background also has to stop, to keep the rhythm. As your car slowly starts to get back up to speed over the following 3 seconds, the music picks back up. However, since your car is not going full speed again yet it would be unfair to have the music come back full speed as it would put you off of the rhythm. Or had they gone the other route with it, and just started the music up again after you hit full speed, it would sound abrupt and strange and kill any kind of a mood that this game had going. So what did they do? Over the aforementioned 3 seconds your car starts going and the music begins playing at a slow to fast rate to catch back up. It sounds something similar to a record once you drop the needle and the plate under the record spins to a start. It’s the coolest sound ever and you can tell it took good planning and proper implementation on the developer’s part. This really genuinely couldn’ve broken the game. 10/10

 

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Soundtrack:

You all know that I can’t lie to you, you also probably know that I’m a sucker for soundtracks. Neon Drive is literally a rhythm game so I have to be even more scrutinizing when it comes to these types of games. There are 8 levels in this version game, each with their own song for you to have to succeed in. The overworld where you can choose your level also has a song. So there was noticeably about 8 songs in this game. It’s not an entirely large game with vast worlds and ranging atmospheres so there is no need to think of this in a scope of Skyrim. We can actually rate the individual songs on their own merit. The problem with that is the fact that you have to be able to pass the previous song to hear the next one. I literally could not get past a certain point in the game, so I had to actually go to online and listen to the songs independently to give them a fair shake.

The songs are all just over 2 minutes for each level. The main menu music is just on a loop though and does so at the end of the minute. Now, I can only assume that there was an actual musician that composed these unless the primary developer did so themselves, and if they did, they get some major kudos. Each one either gives a Tron Legacy kind of vibe or are very reminiscent of heavy bass and electronic melodies, similar to so many 80’s classic NuWave songs. I simply can’t tell you how fun it is to hear some dark and brooding 80’s music one second but then some high tension techno the next. The game’s music is simply a joy, the kind that I cannot quite squeeze into words. The major complaint that I have is that the game doesn’t have more than 8 levels. Maybe a DLC pack of another 2 songs to round out the game to an even 10? I will beat the last 2 songs one day and I know that I will want more! If you would like a taste of the soundtrack, you can download them straight from Fraoula’s Bandcamp page by clicking here7/10

Visuals

The pictures do this game zero justice. The visuals are absolutely stunning and off the wall and cool and just loads of endearing adjectives all around. The neon colors against a black background really give you a retro-futuristic vibe that plays well against the music. The change in art styles between all levels makes you think of different arcade games (since that’s how the 7 levels are displayed to you, as an arcade machine), all of which seem to span across classic 80’s games. I love the fact that they don’t play too heavy into the who 1980’s vibe by making the game fuzzy or try to use 80’s graphics because it simply wouldn’t play well in a rhythm game.

The one aspect that I forgot was a thing happened to me a lot in the first level. There is a point where you go from following with a 3rd person camera behind the car to a bird’s eye view above the car and so it’s a top down view (as indicated in the picture below). Now, for some reason, I had a hard time with this section, but the cars just kept a’coming from the top down. This is very similar to DDR where the arrows fall from the very top of the screen to the bottom. If you play enough DDR you’ll know that after staring at the screen for a long time, your eyes will start to play this whacky trick on you where the screen keeps looking like it’s floating up and away from where it is. Of course, it won’t, you could stare at it nonstop and nothing would happen. But the point I’m trying to make is that there will be times where it will be hard to physically continue playing the game as it just hurts your eyes too much. I would say do the old thing of playing for 15 minutes and then go take a break. That will help. Because you will 100% get stuck in places that take 30 different times to beat. 7/10

Gameplay: 

When it came to the sheer gameplay of Neon Drive, in all of the levels I played it started with sheer joy. The longer I played said level, the joy changed to challenge. Which was absolutely okay with me as the player. Unfortunately, as some of the levels continued on, their difficulty did too as the way you play the level dynamically changes. The level may give you a basic design to beat and once you are playing it and finally getting the hang of it, it changes the whole darn thing up on you! Now you’re halfway through the level, so very confident, and you have to drop what you know about the first half of that level and figure out how to play the second half of the level, all while staying in time with the music and also not getting hit more than once.

I could sit here and review all of the levels in one way or another, but I think recapping the overall gist of the game makes more sense because nobody has time to read 8 reviews within this review! So as I mentioned before, you have 8 arcade machines presented to you, each one representing a different song and a higher difficulty. But not just that, each arcade machine also has a different 80’s style game on it. The pictures throughout this review should inform you of what a few of those are. So in each game, you have 2 different gameplay types. Meaning that all in all there are different gameplay styles if you go through the whole game. So kudos to Fraoula for not reusing any ideas. I think what we can judge here is the implementation of said game types and I think having them like this is probably the most logical thing to do. I do think that they could’ve upped the ante even more and given us a Nonstop Challenge mode which lets the best of players start with the first song and play the whole game through without stopping. But that is something that could be added in with a patch.

I think all in all the gameplay that I played was absolutely fun, but I did feel as though the forgiveness was quite low. I feel as though they could add an easy mode that lets you get hit twice before dying. I think a 3 strike rule would be a better option. Because I still wouldn’t beat the whole level through, but I would at least make it to the next checkpoint. What I’m saying is that this is a rhythm game first and foremost and a Dark Souls game secondly. You have to love playing a challenging game and also love music based games. If that sounds like it’s right up your alley, buy this game. If not, this game with it’s unforgiving nature is not where you should start with rhythm games. 7/10

Replay-ability: 

The game as I mentioned before isn’t an entirely big game. But it has plenty to do. You will find that of the 8 levels it will probably take you a few days to beat. And even then, you can turn up the difficulty before you even start. The game settings have an option that you can turn off that instead of restarting you at the checkpoint, you can have it start you all of the way back at the checkpoint. An option that is absolutely brutally mind boggling as it’s hard enough as it is to play with the checkpoint system turned on. So if you’re looking for longevity of this game, that is one way to obtain it for sure. And of course, since it’s on PS4 trophies are a requirement for the game, so you’ll have those to accomplish and give you a path of what to do next as it were. Then, even when you end up beating this game in its entirety you then have another difficulty unlocked (at least according to the Steam page as I never got that far). That difficulty is hard mode. And on top of that, if you’re a brave soul you can turn off the checkpoints. So yeah, this game can technically be played 4 different times through. Once with checkpoints, the next without, the third on hard mode, and the fourth would be the hard mode with checkpoints off. And the game is only $9.99! I dare you to beat this game on all 4 types in one month’s time! 10/10

If you’re ready for a flashy 80’s driving game like no other, buy the thing by clicking here!

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