Robots controlled by humans from the future on a mysterious space ship also sent from the future to save civilization from a techno tsunami. This is the premise of Neon Castle’s newest and first game released on Steam this last October. TechnoTsunami is a sci-fi adventure game with a suspenseful narrative. It is a hard game to classify because it is a mash-up of different genres, part puzzle game and part first-person shooter. The developers Neon Castle seem to have taken heavy inspiration from the classic series Bioshock. It is a very interesting take on your typical time travel sci-fi story.
The game takes place on a space cruise ship named Neon Castle in the year 1930. Humans living in the year 2130 sent this space ship from their time into the past using some newly discovered technology. What is singular about the Neon Castle is that everything on the ship is remotely controlled by humans from 2130’s earth. The goal is to collect all futuristic technologies that are somehow getting teleported to the year 1930. It is vital that those technologies be extracted from the past or it could create a catastrophic timeline. A techno tsunami would mean a very dark future for humanity. You play as a human in the year 2130. The game starts with two robots in a heated discussion. When one of them kills the other you immediately commandeer the surviving robot. You will have to search every corner of the Neon Castle so you can eventually capture all of the ‘out of time’ technologies and send them back to their proper timeline.
The artwork is extremely reminiscent of the Bioshock series, especially the last installment. From the opening screen to the credits you will be able to notice the influence. Even the atmosphere has the same kind of feel. On the other hand, do not expect the same kind of quality, but I have to hand it out to the developers they did an excellent job of creating an intense and suspenseful atmosphere. I especially enjoyed the look they came up with by mixing futuristic aspects with a vintage feel. It really does a good job of capturing both the past time of 1930s viewed through a futuristic 2130’s style.
The writing is not bad and the story is interesting. Nonetheless, the translation/grammar needs some extra work. It can be awkward sometimes. I enjoyed the story and the poor translation does not impede the gameplay. However, it is the kind of details that break the flow and make the experience that much less engaging. It could easily be fixed by the developers.
The mechanics are pretty straight-forward. It is played like a first-person shooter. The only difference is that you have a choice. You can either kill the other robots or cooperate with them. You walk around visiting different areas of the ship one after the other. First you have to figure how to get to it though. In each part there are many rooms. While some rooms are locked, others you can just enter. You go around collecting items and obviously the focus of the game is on solving the puzzles you encounter. Some of the puzzles are quite intricate and difficult. You often have to think outside of the box to find the solution to some of the puzzles. It is clear that the developers are fans of challenging puzzles and they have put a lot of work into creating in-depth and complicated solutions. A challenging game is a good thing, but on the other hand it sometimes can be very hard and that can become quite frustrating. There is always balancing act that is not always evident when creating puzzle. Having said all that, TechnoTsunami is Neon Castle’s first game so they have to be commended on the quality of the gameplay.
There are some aspects that I would love to see improved. I feel that the game has a solid base, but more attention could be paid to details like the inventory. I had been collecting items for several minutes and it took a bit of looking around to figure out how to use them. It did not felt intuitive. The map is useful, but extremely bare boned and the colors are so bright it can be hard on the eyes. There are some tips to help the player at the start, but there is no proper tutorial. As an example, at the very start of the game you find a baseball bat that you have to use to break a very specific object. I found it a little odd that I found this baseball bat, but it could not be used except for that one object with no contextual clues. All of those issues do not necessarily change the gameplay, but they are all small details that would greatly improve the player’s experience.
TechnoTsunami is an interesting take on the first person shooter genre except with less killing. I like the idea that you can choose to cooperate with other robots instead of killing them. If you go in with no expectations, you will be pleasantly surprised. The aesthetics are charming and the look fits well with the whole time paradox. The story can get a little convoluted at times, but overall it is an engaging story. For a first game, TechnoTsunami with its nice vintage graphics, mysterious story and puzzles that will challenge every player definitely deserves some attention. It is definitely worth trying it out when you consider the small price tag. Neon Castle is an up and coming studio that I will be keeping on my radar.
Written by Vee