Developer: Minor Key Games
Release Date: 20/05/2015
Publisher: Minor Key Games
Platforms: Linux, SteamOS, Macintosh operating systems
in glorious block form
The best way to describe NEON STRUCT is if Deus Ex, Thief and a Lava Lamp had a threesome inside a Rubix cube. That's a sobering mental image, but I feel it's pretty spot on given it's obvious influence to the aforementioned. But lemme' elaborate on this.
NEON STRUCT is a neon-soaked minimalist stealth game set in a cyberpunk world rich with the classic government espionage and cloak and dagger themes we're all too familiar with. You navigate Jillian Cleary through a series of environments usually tasked with breaking into a complex and stealing valuable information, the thing NEON STRUCT gets right is in its simple rules and gameplay whilst slowly turning up the difficulty and throwing you deeper into conspiracy you're involved in.
If you've played the Thief series - Jillian uses almost identical tactics to the Thief protagonist Garret, in that you'll be sticking to the shadows, knocking out guards, picking pockets and infiltrating the level to complete your objective. It's great to see that the classic stealth genre formula can still work in 2016 and in my opinion, it's still the best. Well designed levels and clever guard placements serve to push your timing skills and ability to work under pressure.
There's plenty of moments where you'll have a short window to hack an alarm box before the wandering patrol comes back around giving you just enough time to quickly duck back into the shadows. Moments like this are where NEON STRUCT shines giving you those short moments of tension as you infiltrate a level.
You'll use a variety of different items that go from darkening a room to let you slip past a patrol to items that help in hacking a terminal quicker. Simple stuff, but NEON STRUCT is an homage to these old stealth bangers and does it well. I only wish the game did more with what it has.
Sure NEON STRUCT purposefully limits itself with grid-like levels and simple structured gameplay - but it feels like there could've been more attention to detail in many of the missions and gameplay mechanics, because of this, NEON STRUCT can suffer from repetition and often times barren environments, (this isn't to be confused with level design, which as I mentioned before is well-done). This can range from empty town hubs to large open areas bereft of any static objects. Things like this were common in the old stealth classics but with the neon-soaked city and wide variation of locales, it seems that Minor Key Games could've crafted some amazing set pieces with the tools they had. But still, there's the music that picks up that shortcoming.
What I can say is that the music is superb. Almost if Flock Of Seagulls wrote the OST for Deus Ex. Simple levels are heightened by the amazing soundtrack that perfectly fits the game world. The hubs usually have a radio playing one of the more electronic rock songs that really set the tone of the world - and much similar to games like Hotline Miami or Party Hard - the music ties every other element together well and helps establish the theme.
Then there's the story, which at the moment seems pretty throw-away. The classic covert operation trying to impeach on people's rights (last time I'll mention Deus Ex, but think Deus Ex) is what's in store in NEON STRUCT, and while it fits for what the game is going for - it really feels like I'm going through the motions and no fork in the story has caught me by surprise.
But it feels like that's not what NEON STRUCT is concentrating on. Really, this is a well-rounded minimalist stealth game that'll keep you entertained and is worth the money. I'm having fun, and you will too. Christmas sale is around the corner so give up some shekels for once in your life.