Neonwall is bringing its world of neon colours to your neon joy-cons this week, and it looks like a rave party in the night. But what is Neonwall? It’s an experience that will test your focus, your reflexes and your sanity. The premise is simple – get a rolling ball safely through an obstacle course to avoid being hit by an absolute dickhead of an electrical current. It’s hard to imagine what happened to this electrical current in its younger years to make it so cruel and unforgiving, but we have a few tricks up our sleeve to survive this nightmare. Bring on the wall!
There are 3 modes across the game’s 30 plus levels: Puzzle, Time Trial and Runner. Puzzle is the friendliest, as you have as long as you like to complete a level with a fairly generous 4 lives. Time Trial amps up the difficulty somewhat, as you have to reach checkpoints within a certain timeframe, but again you’re armed with 4 lives so perfection is not essential. Runner however is where the nightmare truly begins. You have to make it through a whole level without dying once, and all while that electrical current I spoke about earlier chases you. And whilst the controls are simple, executing the right combinations at the right time is complex to say the least. So how exactly do the controls work?
You have 2 laser guns – both different colours. You hit L to change the colour of the left gun and R to change the colour of the right. In order for the ball to move at a decent pace, your ball has to match the colour of the platform it is moving on. If the platform’s green and your ball is blue, you have to change the colour of your gun to match the ball. Once you’ve got used to how the control scheme works the game slowly starts to introduce new mechanics. In Level 5, the trigger buttons come into play. Certain blocks in your way need to be shot down and these are fired at using either ZL or ZR, depending on the colour of the block. In Level 10, you are given the ability to drag and move platforms using your pistols, and this can help you carry the ball across to a temporary safe side.
Neonwall is a very clever game. Everything works as it should and the ideas are executed brilliantly. The problem for me is that the game is so challenging at times that you’re constantly on the brink of throwing your TV at a real life wall. You can get within a millimetre of the finish line in a Runner level, but if you make one single mistake you have to do the whole thing again, which isn’t fun. There are levels here that you will have to play at least 20 times to learn the patterns. Don’t get me wrong, it’s deliberate for sure. But whilst the game is fair (the levels are eventually achievable), I only really felt relief at completing a level. It wasn’t euphoria, it was more relief that I would never have to play that level again. It’s one thing if you’re right near the end of the game, the incentive to battle through is huge. But I was struggling drastically from Level 7 onwards, and such immense difficulty that early on tests you.
That being said, I kept coming back to it. There’s something really addictive about Neonwall. You don’t want to be beaten by it and the ‘just one more go’ appeal is strong. The game won’t let you jump ahead however – you have to complete the levels in order, and it’s for your own good. You need to be on your toes for the later levels and the game does a good job of preparing you for it. It also looks superb on the Switch – the juxtaposition of the neon on black is excellent, like frozen fireworks in the night sky. There’s also promise of more levels being added from the developers, so the future looks bright for Neonwall – in more ways than one.
Neonwall is an excellent physics puzzler that will test your concentration within an inch of its life. Prepare yourself though, it’s not gonna be a cakewalk. Oh go on then, just one more go…
Punk rating: 7.5/10