By Marisa Alexander / July 7th, 2020
Editor’s Note: Due to the postponement of GDC, oprainfall has taken it upon themselves to help provide coverage to developers who were going to showcase their games there. Neon Noodles is one of those games.
Normally with impressions and reviews, I try to get to the meat of it as quickly as possible. However, it should be said that the type of genre Neon Noodles borrows from is unfamiliar to me. Needless to say, this is actually the first time I heard of zach-likes, games similar to ones created by the company Zachtronics. These are open ended puzzle games, specifically in crafting a set-up that would solve the puzzle. In many ways these are programming games, where many offer statistics in order to show the player how efficient they were. Neon Noodles does this by having you program robots to fulfill food orders. You are allowed to be as efficient you want to be, as long as you complete the orders given.
That is the game’s main appeal however, to create more efficient solutions as you grow accustomed to the mechanics. Due to their open-ended nature, it is up to the player to make each level as challenging as they want to be. Granted, there are preset tools given and at times immovable stations and tables. Beyond that, players can do what they want even if it means having only one robot complete all the orders. As such, it is difficult for me to discuss challenges, particularly due to my inexperience.
The game never felt unfair, yet the curve from level to level still seemed to climb steeply. For instance, many of the tricks the player can do involves linking two robots together in order to keep the program size as low as possible. However, even in the level it was introduced, it felt difficult to even apply. The same result happened with the ability to loop at a specific point in the program, rather than only at the start. I managed to get an idea on how to properly implement these via looking at the game’s videos and screenshots on Steam. That said, the learning curve might have to be evened out some more in order to allow the player to truly grasp their tools.
There were other points that could prove cumbersome to other players, such as the user experience. When programming the robot, I was unable to see manipulated food panels and how its changes can make more minute steps like chopping an ingredient from sliced to diced more trial and error. This can also happen with colliding into other robots as well, since they turn invisible barring the one robot you are programming. There was also a strange issue with linking robots. As far as I can tell, trying to revert the link can make the game quit the level without saving your progress.
Visually, the game has a set art style in mind, though I can’t say I was impressed by it either. It looks and sounds fine for what kind of game it is. In the end, the visual and audio direction seems to more so an attempt to capture the kind of world the developers were going for. The Steam page describes it as a dark, mysterious, and futuristic cyberpunk world and for the most part I would say that is accurate. I can’t really get the dark part of the description within gameplay, though the line of robots on the title screen certainly gives the vibe of robots having replaced humanity.
Overall, in the end I can’t help but feel unable to really anticipate the full release of the game even after two to three hours of play. That said, I will admit that is most likely due to my inexperience in this genre. It is definitely worth trying out, where perhaps those experienced in the sub-genre will truly enjoy what Neon Noodles has to offer. It is on version .5.569, so it is very likely that there will be major changes and updates. Vivid Helix might very well satisfy their target audience as long as they keep at it.
GDCImpressionsNeon NoodlesoprainfallPuzzle gameVivid HelixZach-like