NewRetro Game Review: NeoAngle (Yan Sokalau, 2017)

It's been too long since I've used this article space to showcase one of the fantastic retro-themed contemporary games currently available for modern systems. I'm guilty of focusing so sharply on the console days, spending so much effort digging out the strange relics of the in-betweens, that I all too easily overlook what's being produced right now by a crop of talented young developers. Some of these new titles are designed for a computer or a console; some you can hold in the palm of your hand on an Android device or an iPhone. They present themselves in a familiar light, be it pixels, structure, or just the timeless aesthetic feel of our favored era... but they are undeniably modern in what they bring to the table in terms of gameplay experience.

NeoAngle, developed by Yan Sokalau for Android/mobile devices, is just one such game. On its surface, it seems like another puzzle game. Most puzzle games do. To be direct, the core idea of the game is one of clever simplicity. What makes NeoAngle enjoyable is not only its striking 80s-neon visual theme and its ease of play, but the fact that it does trick you... it makes you think you've just installed another routine time-killing puzzle game. It quickly proves you wrong, leaving you scratching your head but unable to walk away without solving one more geometric riddle.

The game mechanic works like this: you are presented with a field/plane/irregular area of translucent panes, one of which contains a softly highlighted section. By tapping your screen in a given direction, you must chart a path for the pink triangle, capturing a set of triangular pyramids on the game map as you go towards that highlighted section. The trick is not to trap yourself or block off a pyramid without picking it up; the bright green areas you leave behind you as you move become impassable, so doubling back is not an option. Therefore, each puzzle involves a good deal of deliberate forethought. You are not rushed; there is no time limit or pressure. There is also no limit to how many times you can try solving a level or start over. NeoAngle is a casual-type puzzle game, meant to be pursued at your own pace. The game will even keep your progress, so that you can shuttle between real life and the neon puzzle-world with little worry. Its casual pace and relaxed style of play, however, render it no less stimulating or exciting.

I found the game relatively simple during the first three levels, which I suppose are there to acclimate the player to the way NeoAngle works. Starting with the fourth level, however, I was quickly placed in a challenging position that both mildly frustrated me and captured my attention. I was able to make progress, but I was made to earn it, and not in a way that ever made me want to quit or stop playing. As I've gone on, teleporters and “switches” have been gradually introduced, along with other elements meant to layer the complexity of the playing field. None of these seem superfluous; in fact, they do what such new elements should do in any game... keep me on my toes. NeoAngle is a game of geometry, of plotting, and of adaptation. I've only been playing it for about a day on and off at the time of this writing, and it's already become an enjoyable and convenient foray into the cerebral.

The visual style of the game is crisp and sharp, but has the well-established soft neon edges of the 80s-synth visual motif. The graphics themselves are not complex, but it is plain that great care went into preparing them. The color scheme is reminiscent (at least to me) of old-school CGA computer graphics, but without the grainy low-res scrawl. The soundtrack only consists of a couple pieces of music, but they are long loops that fit very passively into the background of the experience and never irritate. No sounds in the game are grating or bothersome, fitting nicely with every other smooth aspect. NeoAngle is notably different from most other puzzle games, but what truly sets it apart is its polished overall presentation (not to mention how well thought out the puzzles are).

I gladly grant NeoAngle 9 out of 10. I rarely go over 8, but it gets that extra push for being a puzzle-type game that I can enjoy, as someone who doesn't usually favor the genre. It also definitely belongs featured here, on our site, for being another superb blend of old and new. I highly suggest you visit the site and get ahold of it for your Android device. The best part about this retro-tastic puzzle odyssey? It's currently free.