In ‘No Pay 2 Play’, we review free video games (whether they’re riddled with microtransactions and season passes or not) and then answer the golden question: is it worth adding to your game library?
Developed and published by Sample Text Studio. Released in May 2019. Available on Steam. Achievements included.
Is it really free?
Hop a ride on the buses, but avoid those spiky wheels…
What’s it all about?
If you had a penny for every indie game out there with “neon” in its title, you’d earn more money than the average synthwave composer on Bandcamp. After all, neon lighting and synths go together like jam on toast, and video games are not exempt. Slap a rocket launcher and some wacky obstacle courses into the equation, and what you get is Neon Boost, a frantic first-person shooter that will put a smile on the faces of any hyperactive speedrunner. For a short while.
Armed with a funky-looking bazooka, you’ll need to rocket-jump, wall-run and slide your way through 36 creative and crazy levels in order to reach the goal at the end. Things like floating turrets, spiky barricades and laser grids will no doubt complicate your runs, but you can bounce across floating platforms, defy gravity by running on walls, and get flung great distances out of special tunnels. These missions are creatively designed and challenging to navigate through. Plus, you can replay them all without the fluorescent lighting in ‘No Lights’ mode – which makes each stage much darker and tricker to navigate through as you can’t see particularly far – thus doubling the size of the game. Completing every level at least once will take about a mere few hours in total, which go by awfully quick.
Falling into the abyss or colliding with spikes and lasers are enough to keep your wits up, but your biggest foe is the clock. At the start of each map, you’re given a scoreboard with the times that must be beaten in order to acquire a bronze, silver, gold or the elusive neon medal. Perfecting your scores earn you achievements and personal satisfaction, but you’ll need a bronze medal at minimum in order to progress to the next level. Essentially, you can’t progress until you either beat it after replaying multiple times over, or by picking a different level instead. It’s a real kick in the shin. Is there really any harm with skipping a level in order to prevent things being too bored?
Moving around feels slick and smooth with both keyboard and controller, though sliding through holes at top-speed only seldom works. Chances are you’ll end up bonking your head on the wall and stopping in your tracks entirely (based on personal experiences, I also suffered from a few spasms with both control schemes, where the camera suddenly jolts in a different direction for unexplained reasons). Your rocket jumps may fling you higher or further, depending on your trajectory and the angle of your leap. It won’t take too much practice to get to grips with how gravity works in the game; it’s a bit ‘floaty’, meaning a close-up blast against the edge of a platform might jolt you up a smidge to save your life.
Neon Boosts is made up of a clash of vibrant colours and space-like backgrounds with brightly coloured towers and structures that vaguely resemble skyscrapers, clock towers and flying saucers. Two words that describe the visuals aptly are “eye-candy”. Just don’t think you can bounce off every seemingly-solid object, like the pipes, as you’ll clip through them and plummet off-stage. A synth-centric soundtrack was an inevitable inclusion, but the few tracks on offer are cheery, motivational ditties. The music only plays when you’re moving, otherwise it’ll quickly melt into silence. It can be a bit annoying, but then it’s a small incentive to encourage you to keep moving without interrupting the flow of movement. Its sound effects are loud and impactful, too; your weapon produces a particularly satisfying noise, and the explosions sound beautiful.
Out of all the free-to-play titles out there on Steam, Neon Boost is by far one of the most impressive releases. Its beautiful visuals, synth-licious soundtrack and slick gameplay are all big plus-points. Being able to restart a level after mucking up is a godsent in a frenetic game like this. Alas, outside of its occasional iffy controller issues, its biggest drawback is its length. 36 levels split between three zones (or 72, if you count the dark variants) may seem like a lot but any persistent player will be able to beat these within a few hours. Even then, only perfectionists with a lot of patience will want to keep replaying for the highest scores possible. It’s still an entertaining distraction in its current state, so be sure to boost your way to Steam for your free copy.