Giving players the ability to roam around a large city area and take advantage of the different rails, landmarks, fountains, buildings, and pretty much anything else you can think of is an easy-to-enjoy aspect of games from as early as the Nintendo 64 days. Taking this free roam, trick-filled concept and putting on skates to pull it off is the recently released Neon Tail that is now officially available on Steam’s Early Access. While they still have a lot more to add to make this game complete, they certainly seem to be starting off with some speed.
You play as a girl who is looking to become an SFS Pro Star in Bluepulse City. To do this you will be skating around to earn popularity points before moving on to get your first step towards your goal. This is where you get your first mission set up and start learning the controls. A guide system made up of an arrow and marker on the mini-map will take you to your friend who challenges you to collect holographic points, without any time limit. Doing this gives you the basic sense of exploring around a section of the city, grinding on the rails, and general movement.
Once you finish the first mission and have a sense of how to manage your character they move you on to the next challenge of earning 1000 popularity points in order to make a name for yourself that is big enough to make you worthy of being evaluated for the first stage of an SFS Pro Star. To do this, they give you no guidance and instead let you figure it all out yourself. Here is where you get to free roam the city, play with the different trick options available, and try to figure out how to earn more points all with an underlying purpose.
At first, I didn’t like the lack of guidance and while I still feel they could have had someone mention or challenge me to do spin tricks or other tricks to earn points, this actually ended up working out best. I went from thinking the city available was small to realizing it is actually much larger than I expected for an early access version of the game. Plus, I got to play with a few ideas on how to earn the most points and found myself trying to pull off the most spins in the air as possible, reaching high points on buildings to get more air time, and spinning around fountains to pull off the different grind tricks.
Once you get into the testing area of the first SFS Pro Star license you are challenged to reach specific points that aren’t very easy. This is the first time you are challenged to push your comfort levels to move forward. This was a nice way to lead into a mission that is time-limited and will take a few tries for beginners (three tries for me, if I’m being honest).
It isn’t until you reach this point that you are informed that cafes are the place to go in order to save your game. While I think this should have been mentioned sooner, I did stumble upon this fact myself while exploring in the unguided time earning popularity points. At some point, we will be able to earn money which is what we spend to buy a “Bubble Tea” in order to save. There are going to be more options in the shop at some point, based on the way their shop system is set up, but that is currently the only option.
There is so much that I hope to see added to this game. It has such a great start and was enjoyable the entire time I was playing, but there is always room for improvement.
For starters, a balance system should be added. This will improve the difficulty to pull off harder combos while grinding and can open the game up to more tricks like one-wheel manuals. It is a feature that helps you earn more points in the games that inspired this one to be created and something that certainly should be implemented.
Going up ramps shouldn’t be harder to do regularly than when grinding. I did find myself using the rails to go uphill anytime I needed to and this became a hassle that shouldn’t be there. If I have momentum and continue to move forward, going uphill shouldn’t be a challenge of its own.
Way more stunt options need to be added to the game overall. While flipping and spinning is cool, I would love to be able to do grab tricks, wall rides, and other aspects from the world of skating. There were plenty of times I tried to do something other than jumping and spinning to earn popularity points and it simply wasn’t an option when I think it should be.
The city just seems so empty with how large it is. I would suggest condensing it a little bit or adding more aspects and people to it. While having such an open space is great for learning the controls, it should be full of obstacles, ramps, and other aspects that make simply going from point A to B a fun experience.
Neon Tail is certainly off to a great start but has quite a bit of work to get it to be an amazing game. With such awesome predecessors being Rocket Juice Games inspiration for creating the game in the first place, I would love to see more aspects of both added to the game. As for what they have available now, it is simply a lot of fun and an entertaining way to kill a few hours.