TurnOn is a small indie game created by Brainy Studio the development team of only four people who are hoping to bring a spark to the Xbox One.
Something’s gone wrong and there’s been a power cut and the blackout reaches from the depths of the suburbs to the tips of the skyscrapers, thankfully there’s an innocent alien spark on a mission to bring light back to the world.
After a brief interlude, you take control of the small spark, and begin moving across the light-blue coloured cables collecting small blue flash symbols as you go, initially it’s all pretty straight forward, as you touch items like lights you turn them on which straight away gives you a suitable feeling of direction when you return to an area already in lights.
You make your way to the power station using ‘A’ to jump, and ‘B’ to drop, when wires are close enough together you can traverse to another nearby helping you progress. At the end of this section you will need to fire up the back-up generator, which is a simple enough task of lighting up three lamps.
After each level you’ll also be rewarded with up to three lamps dependent on how many of those little blue flash symbols you’ve collected, due to the exploration based puzzles, you’ll often find yourself collecting more than enough to give you all three lamps especially on the earlier levels.
Puzzles vary from simple jumping, to complex movement and avoiding obstacles, usually your target is a small electrical box which activates something within the game world, some will turn on a TV, others might change traffic lights and others will turn on the lights in a house to scare away nearby thugs. The wide range of these outcomes distracts from the otherwise repetitive questline.
Occasionally you’ll come to an on-rails side-scrolling section where you move quickly between a handful of electricity cables along telegraph poles, with the screen moving at a set speed you’re only aim is to jump or drop to gain as many of the blue flashes as possible. This is when you’ll also find red and green flash symbols, with the red taking one of our three ‘flashes’ and the green replacing one.
After about 30 minutes you’ll breeze through into the second major area, and things change up quite a bit, there’s still that same old A to B target with electricity boxes along the way, but you’re suddenly forced to think in 3D as telegraph poles in the foreground and background prove a necessity which can thankfully be reached by jumping from any any which are close on the screen, regardless of their distant in the game world. This is a great effect which often takes some thinking and you’ll be watching every section looking for that secondary cable you need to jump to.
Often the choices are plentiful though and on some occasions you’re forced to backtrack considerably, one of my favorite levels started off as a simple left-to-right objective, but soon enough I was heading back, all the way beyond where I’d started using secret underground tunnels and distant background telegraph poles to progress section by section.
There’s a lot of thought and effort gone into making sure the puzzles you’ll come across feel fresh and interesting, quite often you’re opening the route for a pedestrian to walk through, but the multitude of ways you do this, prevents anything feeling too old, even though it’s basically finding a electric box and touching it.
Around this point you also realise that the difficulty has spiked a little, while not impossible the third area is considerably harder than the first one with quite a significant leap from one level to the next midway through the second area.
It’s a pleasant learning curve as you look back upon the entire first area as a training section, but before you know it you’ve scraped past a level only to find the next incredibly easy again although the overall difficulty does raise gradually through the game, it’s just a shame there’s a few peaks early on (second area) which will put some people off, and scare away the younger gamers who would have also breezed through the start.
Graphically TurnOn seems to aim slightly more towards the younger gamers, from the little face on the alien spark, through to the art direction of the characters and buildings, although it’s certainly not ‘childish’ in a way that it will put adults off,
Actually the graphics are overall pretty impressive, even in the darkness it maintains good detail, and lighting effects are perfectly acceptable too. The more you play the game the more areas and backgrounds you’ll come across, but each level felt somewhat different to the next, which also helped to avoid any feeling of repetition. Some might class some graphics as basic, especially the hand-drawn comic-book like sketches that flick up between sections to introduce a little story.
Audio is another area which might seem basic in parts, but the overall soundtrack is somewhat cute, and seems far better quality than many games I’ve seen created by a handful of people.
That’s not saying everything is perfect, some of the sound effects can get a little annoying, but overall there’s nothing major to complain about.
Longevity is the main area here, as there is a degree of repetitive gameplay, graphics, a mixture of puzzles, and direction changes do their best to keep you going, but some people may find they lose interest before the latter stages of the game, especially if you get stuck on a level for a while, those who can scrape through will find more than a full evening of gameplay, and if you wish to backtrack for all three lamps and a few extra achievements you’ll find more than enough gameplay to easily justify the asking price
TurnOn is a perfect example of how well a small team can do, it’s fresh, unique and fun. Sadly it’s not without it’s downfalls, difficulty spikes and a feeling of deja vu aren’t enough to ruin the game, but they’re worth mentioning.