02/05/2022

⚡️ NeonLore Xbox Series X Review 5/10 "A cyber library" ⚡️@playstige #IndieGame #IndieGameDev

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NeonLore has quite an interesting premise - more an interactive short story collection than a game per se, the hour or so you’ll spend drenched in neon sees your character walking around several blocks of a futuristic dystopian city, reading snippets of various characters’ lives, solving the occasional puzzle, and listening to audio stories.

Presented in first-person perspective, NeonLore begins with your character standing in a grubby section of a rain-slicked city at night. The controls are sparse – and walking up to any character standing around the street brings up a text box that acts as a monologue, revealing tidbits about their lives, struggles and histories in the forms of single-page ‘stories’.

There are four main areas to explore, and beyond reading what the folks standing/sitting around have to say, there will be a doorway that leads inside one of the towering buildings where you’ll come to a few other people lurking about as well as simple, skippable puzzles that can be completed so that you are rewarded with audiobooks that can be read and paused at your leisure. Head to all four areas, chat to everyone, complete the puzzles…and you’ve fully explored the world of NeonLore.

Whilst this is a brief and casual experience, it is unfortunately also one that’s a bit rough around the edges. The game features texture pop-in and has a moment of stutter, but the environments themselves can be quite striking; with reflective puddles, looming neon towers and dirty side alleys all feeling decidedly cyberpunk and evocative of a larger city behind the few, small areas that game is relegated to.

Being heavily text-based, it’s a shame that there are so many errors in the dialogue in terms of words without gaps between them and spelling mistakes. This stretches to the four main audiobooks, which are pretty dryly read and also contain grammatical errors. Some proofreading would really have elevated the level of polish in this area of the game. Your character also cannot run, and so you are limited to slowly plodding around the world of NeonLore.

The stories can range from someone wondering if they should branch out on their scented candle business to serial killers’ fantasists, and amnesiacs that feel they are being followed by shady government agents. The problem is that the character models and placement don’t add up to what is being said. I came across a member of the ultra-rich that despised filth and the poor…and yet was standing by a load of overflowing bins in an alleyway. Or the videogame-addicted slob who – in the text - was described as so unrecognisably fat and unhealthy that his own sister didn’t know who he was…yet visually was toned and had rippling biceps. It makes the game feel somewhat plonked together, especially when combined with the other areas that need improvement.

There’s also no real endgame as far as I can see. One area of the map has a scrolling ‘NO ENTRY’ in the same text as transitional paths to other areas, and so I assumed this was the ‘final stage’, but after completing the four basic puzzles and seeing that I’d unlocked all achievements…it remained blocked off and so I assume it’s truly inaccessible.

NeonLore is a great idea on paper, but the quality of the writing and proofreading needed to be higher for it to succeed. The lack of any sort of ‘endgame’ and the low level of interaction/immersion make it feel like a very superficial experience.

Some of the graphics are tasty and the synthwave music is a real highlight (I couldn’t find any info online about the composer) but I do wish that the tracks faded into each other as opposed to hard cuts between them, to make the audio more fluid.

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