Point and click adventures seem to be at the forefront of the game industry’s mind. Ever since Broken Age reopened eyes to the genre, we’ve seen a flood of them hitting the market When Zodiac Interactive invited me to check out their booth at PAX East, I saw one point and click that immediately caught my interest: Tales of the Neon Sea. Looking like a page out of a cyberpunk novel, or a 80’s neon update to the old SNES Shadowrun game, this made me sit up and slightly closer attention.
Then I saw the trailer:
Now I had to play it, to see if it was as good as the imagery.
The art style is impeccable. The lighting, the constant glow of the neon billboards and the shadowy and beat-down world take what could be basic pixel art and bring it up to a gorgeous palette. I actually interrupted someone else that was about to start a demo, to snag this photo of the opening screen.
Add in the ominous and heavy music, and this feels like an always raining Blade Runner world, where the adventure our detective character Mr. Mist is about to embark on is likely to face some pretty serious trouble. It’s not all bleak and dystopian though, as there’s quite a bit of humor, including a section where you get to play as a cat dealing with the complicated politics of the local kitty godfather.
The developers, Palm Pioneer, are from China and have seen their country grow incredibly fast, with flashy neon and massive skyscrapers sprouting up quickly. Zodiac Interactive has been reaching out to and engaging with several Chinese developers that otherwise would have little chance of breaking into the massive U.S. market, and this is the product of that relationship.
I want to explore the hell out of this. I want to see all the small neon signs, and the layouts of the Kowloon walled city type environments. Also, the lighting itself seems to be a very conscious art choice, uncovering areas, and in some cases – inaccessible until a puzzle is solved.
This plays exactly as you expect – you find items in the environment to move forward, unlock doors, solve puzzles, and gain clues. The one thing that needed some tweaking was that the main characters move very slow. This has value in some areas, as the clues and actions need a slow hand to uncover, but the option to run would be an excellent addition.
From having no idea this game existed, to now curious as to its development process and eventual release, Tales of the Neon Sea is why shows like PAX East are so valuable to the industry.