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Neon Tail – Early Access Review

Neon Tail is an anime-styled roller-blading game, where you aspire to rise in the ranks and become a top skate idol. This is an indie game created by Rocket Juice Games, a small team of three people. Some inspiration was taken from Jet Set Radio.

Steam (PC) is the only available platform to buy this game at the time of writing. There is however a demo on Itch.io, as well as Steam. It is worth pointing out that this is an early access game and as such, this review may not reflect the current state of the game if reading it significantly later than late-2019. I should also note that this game strongly recommends that you play with a controller rather than a keyboard and mouse.

You start this game being taught how to skate by a professional ‘skate idol’ with your friend watching on. After you impress the skate idol, she offers to continue training you and help you to become a professional too.

Skate idols are followed around constantly by camera drones who record their feats for the world. It is explained that performing tricks will gain reputation. This in turns allows you to become higher in rank. More complex tricks such as backward tricks and tricks chained together will gain more points. The first six tricks have to be different from each other, which can be difficult at times with a fairly limited list of tricks.

Your main goal is to increase your reputation, but money is another aspect to the game. Later on, you can find a delivery job. Be warned that some of your clients are the laziest people around – you can get paid for delivering a package for less than 100-meter distances along with the ones where they are placed on top of a building that you need to use platforming to get up to. At the moment money is less important, but there are plans for equipment upgrades which I can only assume money will be used for.

Generally, you are directed by constant quest locators at the start. You will receive a mission from one of the few NPCs and then get pointed to the correct place by an overlay, then repeat. The city is quite big, so this comes in useful. It is also very empty and has many similar looking parts, which is another reason why it is so beneficial. I did soon find myself getting to a point where I spent a very long time wandering about with no aim other than grinding out delivery missions and no direction, which was not a great experience.

The skating itself is interesting. It is momentum-based, so completely changing direction can be slow at times. It can be quite fun, but it feels like I don’t have enough control, especially with jumps. Trying to go between two platforms with precision feels near impossible. Collecting certain pickups often felt the same. I often came across odd bits too, such as being stuck while trying to skate up a slope or needing to skate in reverse to get out of a corner rather than turning. It can be quite fun, but it needs work.

Grinding is another strange one. There is no balance or similar skill required for grinding and no loss of momentum. I can grind forever in a circle without touching the controller or grind completely against gravity going all the way up a building with a rail around it without much momentum. I’ve also noted quite a few places where the physics aren’t right, often near grinding surfaces. Usually, this ends up as sliding along a surface in the air after a jump.

While on the topic of skating, I should mention the camera angles too. I get a lot of odd turns and extreme close-ups, particularly when near buildings. This can throw off the movement. Menus tend to intersect with other objects and become unreadable until moving position too.

In short, the skating aspect of the game requires quite a lot of work. This was not very apparent when I played through the demo before the game’s release. There is quite a lot of fun to be had, but there are many frustrating points.

On a more positive point, for the most part, the visual style is something I enjoyed quite a lot. The graphics are generally quite good for an indie game made by only three people too, with the exceptions of the unnamed NPCs who are very low detail and sometimes seem to be frozen in place. The named skaters and much of the environment works well. Unfortunately, I have noticed some graphical pop in, even in smaller areas at times. Screen tearing was an issue too. My computer more than exceeds the requirements.

I like the background music and found it quite fitting, but it is rather limited. There is a music selection in options too, but it does not appear to have any working options at the moment.

Generally, the game works well outside of issues already mentioned. I have noticed one bug where a mission kept popping up even after accepting it and going through the dialogue. This happened whenever changing areas and made me go through all the dialogue again.

Overall, this isn’t the most positive review in the world. I will say that I still had fun, despite the issues I’ve pointed out and that it is an early access game. I really like the concept and visual style used, but there is a lot that requires work. I wish the developers luck and hope that I can come back in a year to revisit this and find a far improved game.

You can buy the game here on Steam.

Many thanks to Rocket Juice Games for the review code.

 

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