In Neon Souls, all that's missing is Patches The Hyena. Pickles Entertainment's rainbow-infused puzzle platformer might not mirror the work of FromSoftware like-for-like, but with scores of knife-edge drops, myriad deadly traps, bastard hard boss battles, precarious mountaineering, and a world swallowed by shadows, there are definitely some stark similarities between this place and Dark Souls. Namely Lordran's Tomb of Giants.
Because while no one is kicking me down a hole and leaving me for dead, a la Patches, plenty of otherworldly baddies are trying to burst my bubble. The lord of death, Gravelord Nito, may not await me at the foot of my downward spiral; but a bulging-eyed, ultra-hostile, egg-spouting monstrosity is among the end-of-level bosses who're out for my blood. And whereas I've no Skull Lantern or Sunlight Maggot to light the dark and treacherous path before me, what I do have are bursts of glowing multi-colored ink.
These comparisons are subjective, I get that. But one thing Neon Souls and Dark Souls definitely do have in common is their propensity for me to die on-screen again and again (and again), and feel compelled to throw my control pad across the room. No, you're in a huff.
Light up the room
But, just like Dark Souls, I can't stay mad here. Neon Souls is too moreish, meaning that every death begs a restart. The set-up is simple: you control a neon-coloured, globule-shaped sprite, with round puppy dog eyes and an innocent smile. Lost somewhere in space, your job is to hop around unseen platforms from the left side of the screen to the right, using a double jump to squirt glowing ink from within and light up the immediate vicinity. By doing so, you'll uncover spike traps, insta-death chasms, and the whereabouts of walls, floors, enemies, and the glowing exit point vortex used to escape each level alike.
You will die. A lot. But it never feels unfair. If a spike trap gets you, it's probably because you mistimed a jump. If a laser vaporizes you, you might want to try clambering up a different wall. If the same baddie is cornering you time and time again, maybe you need to try a different route. In essence, Neon Souls teaches you its fundamental, universal rules from the outset, and then sets you free on making a mockery of them – just like any puzzle platformer worth its salt.
Where Neon Souls shines, though (pardon the pun), is its use of light and dark. Despite its cutesy, two-dimensional facade, its double-jump light-up mechanic, and the physics that underpin it, are pretty sophisticated – meaning it's easy to miss the path to success entirely if you fail to light up the exact correct spot in any given level. Sure, you can bounce around limitlessly if you like, bashing the same button and covering your surroundings in ink, but when you're plowing through dozens of levels at a time, there's a certain reward in being meticulous. The flip side of this is that when you die, you know you've messed up. And therefore the pull to try again and again is pretty irresistible.
So much so, I must have tried level 35 about a million times at this point. I've genuinely lost count of my death tally, and it now feels like the toy gun-sounding zap of death, quickly followed by the Casio keyboard whirring sound effect of my little buddy regenerating is tattooed onto my brain. But we go again, because I'm absolutely, positively sure that this attempt will be the one where I'll prevail. Although I'm playing on PS5, a quick squint on the game's Steam store page tells me there are 50 levels all told, as well as four "powerful" bosses. Which definitely feels like an understatement.
If you fancy taking Neon Souls for a spin you can do so now on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X and S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. Just don't tell me you coasted through level 35. That'll only drive me deeper into my bad mood, and that's really unfair on my control pad.
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