Right from the beginning, Neon Drive seemed to be destined to become the next big thing. In fact, from its early previews, one got an impression that it might just be the very first ‘unique’ title in years, as it was looking to combine two genres, which one would never expect to go well together. As nobody in the right state of mind could have even guessed that a racing game, could become a work of art, when combined with basic rhythm-based mechanics. However, Neon Drive has managed to pull that off.
The core gameplay mechanic, is centred around avoiding obstacles by moving left and right to the beat of a song, which is playing in the background of each track. And depending on the difficulty, both the obstacles as well as the soundtrack become more intense, as they come at the player controlled vehicles and a much higher, average pace. However, the difficulty in the end doesn’t come from the overall speed, but the fact that ‘Hard’ tracks disallow one from respawning, meaning that upon failure, one has to restart the entire level.
Initially, the core gameplay mechanics may seem archaic as well as monotone, as avoiding simple obstacles on hours at a time, may bore one to death. But thankfully, each and every in-game level features its own unique spin on the basic rhythm-based mechanic, meaning that there is simply no room for boredom to creep in.
Some Neon Drive levels – which in-game are presented as arcade machines – as stated before, features its own unique spin on the core formula. Some levels turn the rather flat track into a cylinder, where player can move the vehicles all the way around the track, whereas as others, turn Neon Drive completely on its head and change it into a platformer – as one of the latter levels requires one to complete a 2.5D platforming section, instead of a road-based track.
The sheer variety which comes in form of all the levels is simply astounding, as each and every one of them features its own spin on the gameplay mechanic, unique vehicle, on-of-a-kind sound track, and most importantly a level-specific visual façade. And such is the integral part of each and every level, as it makes one feel like he/she is truly making progress. As throughout the game, player will move from neon-punk Miami beach, to futuristic cyber-punk metropolis, and last but not least, a cold and heartless manufacturing plant. But while all of those are truly impressive, there is simply not enough of them, as within the title, one will find exactly 8 levels, all of which can be completed in under an hour, collectively.
Neon Drive while visually and technically impressive, is simply way too short. But the length of the title, and the amount of core content can be predicted from the fact that the title, despite of its 3D visuals, only weighs around 300mb. But even after one takes its size into the consideration, Neon Drive still falls short, as even the most cynical gamer would expect the core content to last at least a couple of hours, but instead, a skilled player can finish the game in mere minutes. Even a newcomer, who has never touched Rock Band, or DJ Hero, will manage to reach the final credits within an hour.
One could argue that the content of Neon Drive doesn’t end on its final arcade machine/level, as there is still a hard mode, and the seemingly everlasting endless-mode. However, as I’ve stated before, hard mode is nothing more than a meaningless addition, whereas the endless mode, is simply unrewarding, but then, the lack of any reward other than PlayStation trophies plagues all aspects of the title.
Neon Drive despite of its best attempts, at becoming something truly unique, fails at each and every step. And yes – the visual façade is pleasing, and the variety of levels is surely entertaining, but at no point is Neon Drive rewarding. Even the trophies themselves, despite of their existence within the title, are all over the place. As one doesn’t even receive a bronze trophy for completing all the levels. And when one reaches the end, and gets nothing in return, he/she will simply feel empty inside. Like all this has been for nothing. And once this happens, one has no incentive to continue playing, as he/she will realise that there is no point in playing, as rewards for completing the hard levels, will be equally non-existent.
Ultimately, Neon Drive feels like a tech demo for something that could be truly excellent. All the core ideas and concepts are there, but unfortunately the lack appropriate execution makes the title suffer greatly. And this is visible throughout, as Neon Drive feels, and plays like a low-effort, low-budget project, not even a game. And those who are willing to purchase will surely feel disappointed, as despite of all the promises, it is nothing more than a teaser of what could be if only developers have spent more time on this particular title. But in the end it is a solid title, which is immaculate from the technical stand point, and some will surely find it endearing – especially due to its impressive visual design.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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