Neo Angle is the hot new release from indie game darlings Yan Sokalu and the India-based Dropout Games, and follows the road of beautifully designed, yet deceivingly difficult minimalist puzzle games. Yet, just because it can easily be compared with games like rvlvr doesn’t mean it’s not worth the download. Really the opposite’s true – it’s another strong play on a subgenre which is increasingly becoming one of the most interesting in the field and it’s well worth a try.
One of the things that perhaps sets Neo Angle apart from other unforgiving minimalist puzzle games is the way in which it tries to subtly incorporate a retro feel without losing any of the modern crispness that makes the game look good.
There is no pixel art here, instead Neo Angle unapologetically makes use of the clear crisp lines and modern feel of the Unity game development platform. Instead, it relies upon a synth-heavy soundtrack with a strong eighties feel to do the heavy lifting here.
The result is something that’ll appeal to older gamers without feeling gimmicky. Thanks to the use of eighties sounds by big pop-stars from Taylor Swift to Bastille, you’ll feel equally at home in Neo Angle whether you’re 14 or 41.
Gameplay in Neo Angle can, at least in the beginning, be rather straight-forward. You’re charged moving across the puzzle board one triangular tile at a time, collecting all of the purple fuel cells then heading for the exit tile. The catch is that with each milestone tile you hit collecting a fuel cell, unlocking a gate, etc.), you can no longer go backwards. You’re also unable to cross over any tile that you’ve crossed over before.
Even still, this should be straightforward enough right? Wrong. There’s something about the combination of triangular tiles, three-dimensional graphics and linear movement options that makes this game incredibly difficult. Getting through the tutorial itself is an achievement of geo-spatial prowess, and once you’re let loose on your own and the number of obstacles starts climbing, each puzzle completed merits its own happy dance.
Particularly frustrating are the gates, which make the teleportation tiles seem like child’s play. In order to bring down the gates to allow yourself passage, you must hit upon the right special tile (marked with a flat outlined triangle) first.
It’s not as simple as reaching the one nearest the gate however. That would be far too easy. There is no logical correlation between the location of the special tile and the gate, creating a situation where it’s extremely easy to find yourself trapped and having to restart the level dozens (if not hundreds) of times before finding success.
The fun in Neo Angle is in the constant frustration. If you’re someone who loves Sudoku, logic puzzles, crosswords or taking IQ tests recreationally, Neo Angle is a fast way to exercise your geospatial reasoning. Fortunately, for the game’s developers there are millions of people worldwide who fall into this camp and who will likely enjoy the game a great deal.
If there was anything that could have been done to improve the game, it would be more text instruction during the tutorial and the introduction of a legend screen somewhere in the game so that when you encounter a new obstacle type you can get a sense of what it is or how it functions.
The other thing would be making it clearer that the early puzzles are all part of the tutorial. There’s a bit of disappointment that comes with thinking you’re doing well, having figured the game out on your own only to realize you’re still in the tutorial phase.
When compared with the game’s strengths, these areas of improvement are very minor. Neo Angle is the kind of puzzle game you’re going to want to clear an hour of your Thursday night for, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself hooked for the weekend.