Disclaimer: A review code was provided by the developer for this review.
TurnOn, from Russian developer Brainy Studios, is a very interesting puzzle game unlike anything I’ve played before. You play as a little ball of electricity that must make its way through the city to bring power back to its citizens to save them from the darkness. So, is this game a bright idea or just a brief spark in the dark?
The first thing you will notice about TurnOn is its art style. The hand-drawn-meets-3D look really draws the eyes in, and the darker shades of the world really make your electric avatar pop off the screen. As you move your little ball of light around the city and turn on the power, the citizens will celebrate, cheer, find romance, and more. The game has a unique charm that really makes you smile.
It’s amazing how the folks over at Brainy Games are able to make such a simple world feel so alive. As you play the game, you don’t feel like you’re just turning on the lights; you feel that you are actually affecting the lives of the citizens. In one stage, you are turning on street lamps to lead a girl home, in another you are turning on alarms to stop a burglary at a local dinning establishment, and later turning on the lights to help two love birds find each other in the park. It’s really endearing and makes you care for the small virtual world.
The music is also a highlight in your adventure. The game is very laid back and mellow, and the music does a great job of reflecting that. While not every piece stands out, it never gets in the way either, which is also very important as you’re trying to ponder your next move. There are even levels where you must complete a stage to the beats of the music, where the power lines represent a musical staff, and the little lightning bolts you collect are the notes. This reminded me of the fun-filled stages of Rayman Legends.
One thing I feel I must mention about TurnOn is that it’s not that difficult. In nearly every stage of the game, I was able to get the highest score of “three lights” on the first try. As long as you conduct a thorough exploration of each stage, it would be highly unlikely that you would miss anything. While some may see that as a detriment to the experience, it actually made the game somewhat relaxing. I was able to work my way through the levels, solving puzzles, and never needing to worry about getting stuck. However, it did make the game feel somewhat dull at times.
It’s also worth noting that this game is an Achievement Hunter’s dream. You will get an achievement for every level you beat, each level you get three lights on, as well as points for interacting with certain aspects of your environment. As mentioned above, as long as you explore every nook and cranny of a stage, you should have no problem raking in those sweet virtual accomplishments.
Although I enjoyed my time with TurnOn, there were a few rough patches. The music in the game, while very enjoyable, does have some odd track edits. There were times where I would be listening to a track, only to have it abruptly stop in the middle of a song, changing to something else entirely. While it rarely happened, it did make the game feel less polished.
Speaking of music, the music stages mentioned earlier also have their fair share of annoyances. As the level automatically propels you forward, you must jump or drop to different electrical wires to the beat of the music. As you move along, you collect little blue lightning bolts which act as a guide to get you through the level. If you happen to miss a jump and fall, you will be taken back to the beginning. The real issue here is that the lightning bolts you’ve already collected will no longer appear. This makes the stages much more difficult than it needs to be, as you are now flying blindly through the stage. This adds to many more future deaths and much more frustration than needed.
Even with the lack of polish in a few places, frustrating music stages, and low difficulty, I found myself enjoying the majority of my time with TurnOn. The world was charming, the puzzles were inventive, and the simplified story telling brought a smile to my face. It’s very impressive that this came from a 4-man team. It is definitely a highlight of the ID@Xbox program on Xbox One. If you’re a puzzle fan, it’s absolutely worth checking out.