When you hear about a new studio helmed by veteran videogame developers there’s always that anticipation that something good is coming. In the case of Playsnak – which includes former Crytek veterans who played a part in creating The Climb and Robinson: The Journey – that anticipation is duly justified and the studio hasn’t disappointed with intriguing looking magical adventure Shaman: Spirithunter. While that videogame isn’t due to arrive until next year, Playsnak has instead released an early access experience that’s set to form part of a larger universe, an endless runner called Neon Seoul: Outrun.
It may seem like a simple genre to start off with for a team so well versed in virtual reality (VR) development but Neon Seoul: Outrun shows all the hallmarks of a polished experience, even at this early stage.
Instantly noticeable before you’ve even started playing is the bold, neon rich design aesthetic that looks like it’s been inspired by 80’s videogames and films like Tron, much like Blasters of the Universe or Battlezone. Not that you’ll be paying too much attention to the environment once you get going, Neon Seoul: Outrun is fast, very fast, putting you on a futuristic high-speed bike with one job, make it as far as possible to achieve a massive highscore.
The current early access version features eight track variations yet they don’t seem to be that different. They each have a random selection of cars, trucks and massive buses that span multiple lanes which you can ride under. There’s only one bike which doesn’t feature any customisation options, so you can’t pimp it with any flashy decals.
That’s not the point of Neon Seoul: Outrun in any case, the experience is all about getting your head down, hitting max speed and not trying to crash in a ball of flames. Neon Seoul: Outrun is a seated experience that requires no additional controls whatsoever. All the menu options are controlled through gaze, while the actual bike movement by leaning in various directions with the headset. Leaning forwards increases your speed while leaning backwards slows you down.
While this type of system may conjure up thoughts of VR nausea, Playsnak have managed to make it very smooth and comfortable ensuring most players will enjoy the experience without any adverse effects. Which is good, as Neon Seoul: Outrun is addictive in both its design and gameplay. With a thumping soundtrack by synthwave artists such as Isidor, Raphael Gesqua, and Noise Symphony, speeding down these futuristic highways becomes a psychedelic barrage of colour and sound that’ll keep you on your toes until a car changes lane end you smash right into it.
In its current form Neon Seoul: Outrun doesn’t offer much in the way of replay value, with global leaderboards to see how well (or bad) you’ve done. Yet that’s essentially all that most endless runners offer, so in that respect Neon Seoul: Outrun hits the mark. With the full rollout due in Q2 2018, VRFocus will be keenly keeping its eye on Playsnak’s videogame to see how the studio expands the experience.