Most video games have a singular purpose of entertaining players. Whilst there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, every so often a game comes along that strives to do that little bit more, bringing with it a political message or a life lesson to be learned. The Worldwide Fund for Nature Earth Hour-inspired TurnOn, the first console release from newcomers Brainy Studio, is one such example. For those not in the know, Earth Hour is an annual global event where we are encouraged to switch off the lights and any electronic gadgets and just enjoy the world and people around us. It’s also designed to highlight how life would be without power, and that’s how TurnOn begins.
You play as an alien who crashes into an unnamed city’s main power supply, causing a major power outage and turning the alien into a living spark of electricity. Being a friendly alien, you decide to restore the city’s power by traveling along electric wires and activating generators and power supplies with interesting results.
Here’s what I liked:
Sparky storytelling — The majority of the game’s levels involve basic exploration-style platforming. There is an end point, but you want to aim for turning on every power source possible to get the best score. Most of the time this results in switching on some kind of light, some of which affect various NPCs: you’ll help a young girl home at night, chase away burglars and even help out a couple on their first date. The lazy pacing was a delight, and these small life stories made me want to keep exploring for more people to help.
High voltage graphics — To be perfectly frank, when I first saw the “box art” for TurnOn, I thought it was going to be a cheap mobile port, so I was quite taken aback when I started up the game and was introduced to its attractive art style. The setting of a city plunged into darkness presents some warm, candlelit scenes brought further to life as our unnamed hero slowly brings back the power. The little guy serving as the player-character is equally charming as he flows through power lines switching on colorful fairy lights and moody street lighting, bringing the incandescent glow of homes and shops back to life. The levels also have an unusual perspective in that they look 2D but cleverly turn out to be 3D, meaning you can jump to wires that seem to be far in the background but are as equally reachable as the ones above your head.
Jazz fusion — Jazz is one of the few types of music I hate, and Brainy Studio have gone and used it as the basis for TurnOn’s soundtrack. Even I have to admit, however, that it actually works well in this instance. The smooth and easy listening matches the laid-back tone of the game and its nighttime setting. This unusual choice of music isn’t something you hear often in video games, so it really makes TurnOn stand out from the crowd.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
Broken circuit — TurnOn prides itself on being a platformer without platforms, but that doesn’t mean that precision isn’t required. A few times I found myself making the jump from one wire to the next easily enough, but then I later struggled to do so on even smaller jumps for no apparent reason. Worse still, sometimes button presses don’t register. Whilst this is more of a minor nuisance in exploration-style levels, the issue becomes more problematic during the various boss levels and some fast paced on-rails stages requiring reflexes that the game isn’t able to support. I also experienced a few instances of my character floating off the wires and into the non-platforming areas of the map; however, I would expect this could be fixed in a future patch.
In the end I felt a bit let down by TurnOn. I was really having fun with with its puzzle exploration style, but the focus changed as the game progressed, and it started demanding speedy platforming that its controls weren’t able to provide. It’s one thing to fail because you weren’t fast enough but quite another because button presses aren’t registering. This wouldn’t have been a big problem if Brainy Studio had the confidence to stick with the more enjoyable puzzle levels, but their inclusion of these fast on-rails segments seemed to add nothing but headaches and frustration to an otherwise enjoyable game.
Score: Reader’s Choice
TurnOn was developed and published by Brainy Studio LLC. It released on June 1, 2016 for $14.99. A copy was provided by Brainy Studio LLC for review purposes.