The 1982 sci-fi film Blade Runner is my favorite movie of all time. Part of its appeal for me — but not limited to it — is the movie’s world; the vibrant neon lights in contrast to its dreary setting is both enticing and uninviting. The upcoming point-and-click adventure game by Palm Pioneer and Zodiac Interactive, Tales of the Neon Sea, exemplifies this to an extent with its take on the cyberpunk genre.
While my time with the game was incredibly short at PAX East 2018 — between 10 to 15 minutes — there was plenty to love about it, namely its pixelated art style. From the beginning moments of Tales of the Neon Sea, you’ll notice the aforementioned vibrant yet dreary look but one that is much more inviting than Blade Runner; this is a world I want to explore. I want to know how this dystopian society functions. I want to see the tech used in the citizen’s everyday lives. I want to search every nook and cranny of this game.
Its gameplay may be a bit less interesting than its setting, but it moves the story along in some satisfying ways. The demo I played was split into two bite-sized chunks: the first starred Mr. Mist, the detective shown in most of the trailer and screenshots that have been revealed. During this section, I was tasked to solve a few puzzles in order to progress through the level; this involved turning the lights back on in my dingy apartment, as well as to return a broadsword to a cursed set of armor.
Although the game does tread some familiar waters in almost every aspect, it does it in the least interesting way during this particular section. Tales of the Neon Sea controls like most point-and-click adventures but you move your character with WASD controls with E as your action button. If I found myself struggling — which seldom happened — I would just move and press the action button throughout the various rooms in my apartment.
The same goes for the light puzzle; I felt like I was randomly switching knobs until I solved it only by happenstance. The ways of solving these sets of puzzles just didn’t feel intuitive.
However, after that section finished, things started to look brighter…as you made your way outside as you scale a dimly lit building as a cat. Yes, you will play as an adorable yellow-eyed black cat and it’s great. The dialogue between the cats in this section are both hilarious and aid you in solving the next set of puzzles.
The objective here was to gain access to a particular room on the top floor of the building next door; to do this, you had to solve a variety of environmental puzzles. Unlike the last section, every problem I had to solve felt like there was some sort of logic behind it. For example, there is a neon-lit billboard split into three different sections; clicking on them would change the color of the section to either green, yellow, or pink. Obviously, there was a certain order these sections needed to be in. At first, I had no idea how to solve this until a cat on the building next door gave me a clue; in a room that I had entered earlier, there was a painting of a ship with three different colored flags. I went back to that room, saw what order those colors were in, put them in that order on the billboard, and voila! I made it across to the levels ending sequence.
It’s moments like this where I thought every facet of the game came together in a magnificent way. The puzzles were clever and intuitive, the dialogue during these moments was hilarious — especially coming from a nondescript cat — and the art was just as stylish as it was in that beginning section. After that, I wanted to play so much more; instead, I was greeted by a trailer, putting an end to my time with Palm Pioneer’s cyberpunk adventure.
For the most part, Tales of the Neon Sea feels like a game tailor-made for me. Although it’s not revolutionizing the adventure genre, its neon cityscape, intriguing characters, and clever puzzles made me want more after my short session was over. I genuinely want to know more about this world and the people that inhabit it. While a lot of it is still a mystery to me, I am looking forward to Tales of the Neon Sea‘s release, which is slated for later this year.