"I really enjoyed the demo of NEON STRUCT," uttered the man, "I had been meaning to pick it up since!"
That man wasn't me, but it piqued my interest. I had seen NEON STRUCT before during a Screenshot Saturday bonanza but it hadn't grabbed me. The neon lights were nice but the blocky, simple graphics didn't press me to go any further.
Yet here I am, after sinking almost three hours into the NEON STRUCT demo telling you, if you didn't already know, that basing your opinions on nothing but screenshots is almost always a terrible idea. I was wrong; NEON STRUCT is great.
The demo offers little in the way of introduction, especially if you've cranked the difficulty up to the highest. Here you are, Jillian Cleary, thrust into a mission. You have several objectives, with further objectives by which you're scored on a missions completion. The first objectives are essential; break into the building, find the clue to the drop site, big the bedroom in the Presidential Suite and get the hell out. At the end you're judged by how well, or otherwise, you did.
I got a D, I'd like to pretend it was for Delightful.
NEON STRUCT is a stealth game at heart, doing away with some of the more superfluous nonsense that crept into the genre before its slow demise as gamers wanted to kill everything and considered Assassin's Creed the height of stealth. This is a game about hiding. A game about sticking to the shadows and using whatever tools you have to complete the mission.
Observing patrols is crucial, but getting a good vantage point to do so can be tough, especially in cramped, indoor environments. Thankfully NEON STRUCT adopts the lean systems popularised in games in Thief to allow you to observe from the shadows more effectively.
Upon completion you head back to the agency's HQ where you can engage in passive aggressive conversation with the agency's director; an old, grumpy sexist who insists on "sweetheart" and "darling" as preferred means of labeling his female employees.
Diving into the second mission was even more impressive. Here you have myriad options; not only the devices you have obtained during your visit to HQ, but the level geometry becomes increasingly varied allowing different points of infiltration. I won't go into the second mission too much since much of the joy comes from playing it and testing your wits against both the level and the AI.
Suffice to say the gripes people have with stealth games are still here, so anyone turned off by the internal logic of fixed patrol routes, guards who "forget" intruders etc need not apply. Those people who are willing to look past any of those genre tropes for a little corner crouching will find a lot of fun in NEON STRUCT's demo.
I wish, however, that the game had a little more grime to it. The visuals are clean, and the injection of neon is a welcome one against the drab architecture, but just a little more, a little darker, could really have made the atmosphere in NEON STRUCT special, but I'm excited to see how the mood shifts in the full game.