Do you remember the neon-infused vision of the future that seemed to permeate the eighties, that was recently paid homage by Kung Fury (our review) — Far Cry: Blood Dragon — and even Comedy Central’s Moonbeam City? If Discorun (our review) was a tough-as-nails stage-based runner game paying homage to 70’s Disco Culture, then Neon Drive (out now, free) aims to do the same for that neon-art vibe. Alternatively — assuming that metaphor doesn’t work for you — if Robot Unicorn 2 (our review) was an homage to vibrant girls’ notebook covers, then Neon Drive is an homage to boys’ notebook covers.

Either way, your goal is to safely drive your retro supercar down three different neon-infused vistas that look as though they could have come have come straight from some lost Tron sequel. Truly the graphics here are one of Neon Drive’s biggest highlights, perfectly recreating every last nuance — right down to the shadowing, grid-laced fields, and stylized lens-flares — of its nostalgic high-contrast world. One of my favorite visual touches with Neon Drive’s artwork definitely has to be the real-time light trails left by your car’s taillights as you rapidly shift back and forth between lanes of tricky obstacles.

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Speaking of which, you can perform this stylish lane switching easily — not to mention near instantaneously — just by tapping either the left or right hand side of your iDevice’s screen. These controls — I am happy to say — function utterly flawlessly, which is a fairly good thing since Neon Drive is rightfully comparable to Boson X (our review) in regards to just how soul-crunchingly hard this game can truly be. There may only be three different stages to play through here, all of which are 100% unrandomized, but trust me when I say it’s going to take you a very long time before you’ve seen everything offered.

I am serious about this game’s top-tier difficulty, seeing as how I have yet to make it past the 47% mark on the game’s second gloriously neon-infused stage (which — judging from the soundtrack — is apparently called “Miami”). Normally in order to unlock each track you’ll have to first complete the one before it, although you may optionally pay a separate $0.99 unlock fee for levels two and three if you wish to see them much sooner. I’m not really sure this would be even remotely wise — though — seeing as how Neon Drive’s second stage was considerably harder than the first, thus I highly doubt anyone whom hasn’t already conquered the earlier sections would ever be ready for part three.

neon-drive-2On the upside, this nail-bitingly tight action is thankfully made far easier to manage than Boson X due to the fact that Neon Drive’s obstacles are perfectly synced up with the game’s heavily synth-laden soundtrack. Navigating a seemingly endless series of tight twisting-turns will be a lot easier to accomplish if, rather than panicking, you remain calm and pay attention to the music’s helpful backbeat. The end result of performing well will make it seem as though all of the songs’ major cues are happening in response to your epic driving skills, even if things are actually being done the other way around.

The only other aid occasionally thrown your way is that you’ll sometimes be given the option to watch a video ad in exchange for a one-shot continue (you otherwise normally have to restart the entire track after each and every defeat). Curiously, the sporadic appearance of these continue chances isn’t an attempt to make you endlessly shell out cash for continuations – unlike many other apps – as there’s no IAP continues here at all. The only IAP option in Neon Drive — other than the level unlocks — is a $1.99 option to remove the static ads that occasionally display after defeats, which is also a great way to thank the developer — Fraoula — if you appreciated the over-all neon-infused experience.

Ultimately, the biggest two downsides with Neon Drive is that the game contains only three levels — compared to the nearly endless stages found within Discorun — and is furthermore so unyieldingly difficult that many players will never see all of them either. Still, with the game being offered for absolutely free — all while containing no antagonistic IAPs either — you’re positively guaranteed to have fun either way (especially if you appreciate the game’s neon-infused synth-driven presentation). Lastly, you can even assign whatever you want — so long as it will fit within just four characters — to your retro-supercar’s stylish license plate (which will otherwise read “NEON” by default).

Verdict

Neon Drive is — quite appropriately — a neon-infused synth-laden tough-as-nails retro-inspired driving-experience, wherein you drive an eighties-supercar down futuristic obstacle-filled landscapes (as envisioned by the past, at least). Although the game is incredibly difficult — which is thankfully tempered by the non-randomized levels being synced to music — there’s only a scant three stages available, making the complete package somewhat on the short side. Fraoula’s beautiful app is — however — being offered for absolutely free, meaning there’s little cause for fans of retro-eighties homages — such as Blood Dragon, or Kung Fury — to not check this out.

‘Neon Drive’ Review: Long Live the Eighties!
A Totally-Free Neon-Infused Synth-laden Tough-as-Nails Retro-Experience
Only contains three stages (even if they will take you quite a while to finish)
4.5Overall Score