I played “Tales of the Neon Sea”, a walking simulator on iOS (also available on Steam). This was created by Palm Pioneer. The target audience for game is ages 12+ and any fan of detective, cyberpunk mystery games.
In the game, you play as Rex, a detective with robot parts accompanied by an intelligent cat named William (who you sometimes control). As you learn more about other NPCs or yourself in the game, you acquire evidence on them that you keep track of in your notes.
NPCs are often used in this walking sim as both a source of information and conflict. You start the game actually not knowing anything about your main character, discovering later on that he is actually part-robot, which doesn’t come until Chapter 2 of the game!
The objective of this game is to explore. As a walking simulator, you as the player walk through different environments to discover hidden clues. You are often looking for information from your environment to help you solve puzzles and open new dialogue threads.
The solution is also a part of the game objective, as you are often trying to find objects or complete mini-games in order to unlock parts of the narrative or other hidden actions. How you walk around the environment changes depending on your environment and pressures. Certain rooms are restricted until related puzzles are solved or tasks are completed.
There are only a few actions you can do in the game – run, walk, solve puzzles, or learn more information about an object.
Information is used as an important resource that works in conjunction with the environment space.
Without the right information or objects, you as a player are restricted from entering other parts of the environment or learning more dialogue in the walking sim.
The largest conflict in this game is obstacles. Missing items are used to complete tasks in this game, and it is an obstacle to moving forward.
Only by walking around your environment can you advance in the story.
It is important to explore the world to solve puzzles or complete tasks for you to learn more about your world.
While I haven’t yet played enough to learn the outcome of the game, it seems that every chapter of the game is already pre-scripted. Thus, although you are exploring the environment through walking around, you as a player are still moving toward a general plot outline. However, it is nice that you can jump back to replay previous chapters and see their environments even after you finish a game sequence.
Type of fun
As a cyberpunk mystery that takes place in a world where humans and robots exist in the same society, the game definitely includes many notes of fantasy. The fantasy of this walking simulator is emphasized by the stunning pixel art imagery and incredible world-building of this game.
Additionally, the narrative is another type of fun highlighted by this game. Many of the interactions you have in this game are in discovering items, and evidence, and meeting with characters in order to deduce the murder mystery behind this game.
It is incredibly satisfying as a player to put the clues together!
Moments of particular success or epic fails
- I loved the art style in this game and the retro feel it gave, and it really inspired me for possible art ideas for my next game.
- I loved the use of the storyline. There were really cool cut scenes where you would travel through different chapters asynchronously to go back in time to learn more about how you ended up in the future. You actually start the game at near the end of the story, so going backward in time was really cool as a mechanic.
- When I was stuck and I wasn’t sure where to go, it took a lot of work to explore and figure out what to do next. There are not a lot of additional clues in the game, and if you forget a piece of information that’s on you!
- Learning how to play and move around was a little difficult considering that I was just walking around.
- The screen was not scaled perfectly for iPhones, so it was a bit of eyestrain to read the tiny text and it was hard to press the tiny clue bubbles.
Things you would change to make the game better
- I would make it easier to move around and provide more visual input on how you’re moving about the space with clear controls.
- I would make the text and size of objects more accessible to players on devices of all types.
- I would have more opportunities for players to explore worlds even without playing the main storyline so that players can really appreciate the art and environment.
- I would add more decision-making that varies from the main plot-line to provide some more agency in user choice and decision-making in the environment.