Should I care about Neon Struct? Absolutely. What it lacks in complexity, it makes up for with pure stealthy satisfaction. It's the original Deus Ex meets the original Thief. I've been wanting to play another stealth game like this for years.
What's it about? The short version? Open-ended sneaking. You can't really fight, but you can use your ears — sensitive as an elephant librarian's — to hear footsteps all around you. Act, react, avoid. Those are the core tenants of Neon Struct.
The long version is this:
"You are Jillian Cleary: an ex-spy on the run, framed for treason and hunted by your former agency. You must move in secret, survive off the grid, and find a way to clear your name. Old friends and new allies will lend their support; but with the eyes of the world upon you, who can you trust?"
"Keep in the shadows, move in silence, and stay out of sight. Escape from tight situations by scrambling your enemies' vision. Enhance your performance with black market stims."
Watch me play a bit of it here:
Why is (or isn't it) cool? It's pure stealth from a bygone era. No vision cones, no radar, no minimap, no Rambo arsenals for when everything goes to shit. It's just you, your wits, and your ears. My favourite stealth games of all time are the first two Thief games, so I feel right at home in Neon Struct. There's this beautiful tension to it, being able to hear beatstick-wielding enforcers clomping about all around you, knowing you're out of sight — but only just.
One to the left, two to the right, one above. Gonna have to move eventually, but... are my ears lying to me? And what if one of the guards walks in on my hiding spot before I'm ready to go tearing past them?
Good stealth is as scary as it is empowering.
Also levels are huge — ripe for exploration and improvisation — and the hacking minigame is literally Breakout. Oh, the story's pretty solid too.
Shut up and take my mon — Please, don't use that meme.
I am excited about the prospect of purchasing this game with money from my own pocket. Better, I guess! However, a couple caveats: Neon Struct isn't as challenging as games like Thief or aesthetic/story influence Deus Ex. The game does, however, encourage you to make your own difficulty. You can tackle situations as you see fit, and you get a higher end-of-level grade for never being noticed, resisting the urge to stealth KO guards, etc. So if you're a seasoned sneaker, a tip-toeing prodigy of such high calibre that your feet produce plush sound-dampening carpet with each step, try to ghost the whole thing on your first go. I doubt that will be easy.
Neon Struct is also pretty barebones compared to modern stealth games. You get a few cool gadgets over the course of a handful of levels, but that's it. But again, the draw of this game is the purity of the experience.
Should I buy it (even though there are a million-billion other Steam games I could spend my money on)? For sure — at least, if you're into stealth games. It's only $US17.99, and it offers plenty of bang for your buck, especially if you factor in replay value. It's not the greatest stealth game of all time or anything, but it's a refreshing return to a dearly missed era, something I didn't know I wanted this badly until I played it. I guess you could say it really SNEAKED UP ON ME HAHA SOMEONE KILL ME PLEASE.