Neon Tail is billed by developer Rocket Juice as an open world skating game, where you play as a young girl in a neon-tinged city set to save it from an interdimensional disaster. The developers have informed us the game is only 10 – 15% done, so I will only be discussing what I played in this prototype and not what is supposed to come to the game later in development.
The prototype starts you off in a dream sequence that has floating text embedded in the game’s environment for the player to read, but the camera is so uncontrollable in this brief sequence it seems impossible to actually be able to read it. Thankfully the sequence only lasts about a minute since the player only needs to skate past everything. Afterward, the protagonist awakens in the shopping district of the city. While there are no interactable items or objectives in this build, already it is easy to say it feels supremely pleasant to skate around in the environment, getting lost in the fast-paced movement. This is helped by the game not only has wide spaces for the player character to skate through, but also the fact it is built very laterally, allowing the player to challenge themselves to reach higher spaces.
Though I found myself wishing the game had more than two speeds. Whenever the player is set to go, they will pull the right trigger (this demo was played using a Dualshock 4 controller on PC, and I commend them for having controller support in such an early build of the game) to go, which seemed like an odd choice instead of just using the left stick to control movement. Still, the player can only move by skating, as there isn’t any sort of slower gliding or walking speed implemented. This isn’t helped with a camera that at times feels a little too floaty (though nowhere near as bad as the dream sequence.) The camera is especially hard to deal with when grinding, because instead of maybe giving a lock on perspective of the character as she moves across rails or energized wires when she suddenly hits a turn or moves around a curve the camera seems to have a difficult time following.
These sound like a lot of negatives, and I don’t want to give that overall impression of the experience. The skating feels good if a bit limited for now, and there seems to be a trick system in the works. When the player does a forward motion spin on the ground, the game recognizes it and gives them points. An added fun bonus is when the player does complete this trick (no others were discovered in the prototype) they get a boost and shoot forward. The music (there is only one track) definitely captures the personality and look that the game is going for and it’s a bit catchy. The game is clearly inspired by Sega’s series Jet Set Radio, so there’s a hope it will have as good of a soundtrack to contend with. The graphics have a cartoonish but stylistic vibe to them that also fits this tone, and I was a bit averse to the way the player character was dressed, but I chalked it up to her being a skater. That being said I felt her slowing down animation was unnecessarily sensual.
Overall the game gives a good impression and with how early in development they are any problems found in this prototype can easily be fixed before an official release. I have hopes that this game can turn into something really exciting that oozes personality because I need a Jet Set Radio replacement in my life.
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