STAFF REVIEW of TurnOn (Xbox One)

Thursday, June 9, 2016.
by Adam Dileva

TurnOn Box art Sometimes you simply need a break from the onslaught of shooting games or any game in general that might just frustrate you more than entertain you. Some might gawk at more casual style of games, but there’s always a time and place for them when you simply want to relax on the couch and just play something for fun. Enter TurnOn, a platform game that doesn’t play anything like traditional platformers. Oh, and did I mention that it is developed by a very small team of four guys from Russia? Well it is.

You control an adorable spark of electricity who crash lands on Earth, and because of this you’ve accidentally knocked out the electricity grid of a whole city. You’re adorable and friendly though, so you task yourself with restoring power to the humans and setting things right since that’s absolutely within your capabilities. The resident scientist in the city helps you begin your journey, and as you restore light and power to the citizens each stage will take you about 5 to 10 minutes depending on how much you want to explore.

As I mentioned above, TurnOn isn’t your traditional style of platformer. You are only able to travel along powerlines and other electrically influenced areas, such as lightbulbs, neon signs, etc. Powerlines are what you’ll be tethered to the majority of the time though and they pop into the foreground with the stages backdrop and scenery layered behind. You’re able to jump from one power conduit to another, but should you miss your jump and fall to the ground you’re simply placed at the beginning of the stage. TurnOn isn’t a difficult game by any means, save for a few of the later stages, which I’ll delve into shortly, as it’s more focused on exploration and collecting all the lightning icons should you desire.

As you pass over a light or item that uses electricity it will turn on and you’ll net some points for doing this. The more lights and items you turn on, as well as collecting the lightning bolt icons littered throughout the stage, the better your overall score and rank at the end of each level. I initially thought that you needed to collect all of the lightning bolts to progress, but that’s not the case at all, as they are more relevant for high scores and achievements. Speaking of achievements, TurnOn dishes them out hand over fist and requires minimal effort to get the bulk of them, so you achievement hunters out there will enjoy this aspect.

Even though your only controls are moving side to side and being able to jump up and drop down, controls generally work the way they should and are as simplistic as it gets. Instead of simply having to get from point A to point B you have goals to complete as you turn on the electricity, such as lighting a path for a woman walking home, starting a party for some random people, or even setting a romantic mood by getting some music and lights working. It’s a silly premise, but it works in an interesting and simplistic manner telling the game's story.

While the bulk of the game is comprised of standard levels like these, that play at a leisurely pace, there are a few other types of levels thrown in to change things up, and some of them really pull down the experience as a whole due to poor and unresponsive controls. After a handful of levels you partake in an on-rails level where you are automatically moving towards the right of the screen, but you must jump and drop to stay on the powerlines that are energized, indicated by glowing blue, and avoid the ones that don't have power flowing through them, or else you restart the level.

If you’ve played the musical levels from Rayman Origins you’ll know exactly what to expect, except that in these levels, where timing is absolutely critical, you realize the controls aren’t very responsive at the best of times. Truth be told, I have struggled on one such level towards the end as I spent well over an hour on a single level, but kept dying. Granted, it’s all about memorization, but when the controls don’t work as intended, it becomes incredibly frustrating having to start from the very beginning of the stage all over again for the hundredth time with its instant fails. I really enjoyed my time with TurnOn until I got to these levels.

What TurnOn really does have going for it is its visual art style and aesthetic. Given it has more of a casual vibe (aside from the hellish on-rails stages noted above), is wonderful to see the colors when everything is lit up is very bright and vibrant. Levels go from dark and dismal to a happy and refreshing look once you manage to restore power to the area. While it may look simplistic at first glance, it has a certain charm to it, especially given the adorable spark you control. The soundtrack also completely suits the tone of TurnOn with its relaxing jams, setting a great mood for some relaxing play (other than those horrendous on-rails levels where you’ll hear the start of the songs over and over every time you have to restart).

But not is all roses here, as I ran into a few glitches on occasion that were jarring to say the least. A handful of times, for whatever reason, my spark somehow became untethered from the normal constraints of staying along powerlines, seemingly able to simply float anywhere I wanted. I don’t know how it happened or why. This also happened to me during the on-rail levels more than once as well, causing me to die when it eventually decides to work properly again out of nowhere.

TurnOn is a peculiar game, as on one hand I really enjoyed the majority of it with its slow paced exploration and quirky gameplay. On the other hand, the on-rails levels seriously tarnish the experience as a whole with poor controls and instant fails. That being said, the game is still a charming little title that is simplistic in nature, colorful, and a great way to earn some easy achievements. If you’re looking for something to just play and relax during the the majority of some gaming time, TurnOn might just spark your interest.

Overall: 7.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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