The last month has been chalk full of blockbuster games, which tend to take up a lot of the spotlight with video game press. Titles such as Uncharted 4 and Overwatch were released to critical acclaim, and have garnered praise from both gamers and critics alike for their stellar gameplay mechanics and overall level of polish and refinement.
Still, while it’s undoubtedly fun to play through a blockbuster-style campaign, or sink a few hours into an engaging multiplayer mode, occasionally it’s enjoyable to sit back and play a more relaxing game. There are plenty of games that fit the bill, with some personal favorites being Flower or Hohokum. This year, TurnOn is looking to fill the gap.
TurnOn has an interesting development story, as it doesn’t fit the mold of most indie games making their way to consoles. Developed by Brainy Studio, a small team of four based out of Russia, TurnOn was inspired by the World Wildlife Fund’s annual Earth Hour movement, which seeks to educate the world about energy conservation, by turning off all lights for, well, one hour.
Fittingly then, TurnOn follows a titular alien spark, who crash lands on Earth and tasks himself with restoring power to the nearby city, after knocking out the city’s power station accidentally. As he moves around the city, restoring light and power to the town’s citizens, he’s aided by Professor Brain, a scientist from the power station. It’s a simple premise, but it works well enough to tie together the game’s many stages, with each one only taking ten minutes or so to run through.
Leading up to its release, the game was described as a platformer without platforms, though that description isn’t entirely accurate. You control Turnon (the alien spark) with the analog stick, moving him across power lines and cables in order to navigate around the environment. Lighting up nearby generators and lights grants nets you points, which ties into a rank given to you at the end of each level. There’s also lightning icons strewn throughout each stage, though to be honest these points and collectibles are really only important when chasing high scores and achievements. With a simple jump and ‘drop down’ mechanic, TurnOn is pretty simple in its minute to minute gameplay, but to be honest that’s not really an issue.
Where TurnOn does shine however, is in its presentation. As I mentioned earlier, TurnOn works well as a ‘chill out’ game, and this is complemented by its visuals and soundtrack. While the actual geometry and assets are relatively simple in nature, TurnOn excels in its use of color. As you zip through each stage and breath life back into the city, the screen fills with bright colors and neon lights, which is a bit of a treat to watch. It’s also great fun to watch each citizen as they react to your actions. Whether it be restoring power to the satellite and TV, or keeping a raucous birthday party going, TurnOn excels in presenting a charming and endearing city, with colorful visuals to boot. The soundtrack is also worth mentioning; consisting of easy listening and smooth jazz, it does an excellent job of reinforcing the relaxed nature of the game, and never detracts from the minute-to-minute action.
Of course, the more subdued nature of TurnOn might not sit well with some, and I imagine that one’s enjoyment will largely be influenced by exactly how much you enjoy slower-paced games. While unique levels do pop up every now and then, TurnOn takes the scenic route through its main story, which only takes a few hours to work through. On rails sections (which are somewhat reminiscent of Donkey Kong Country mine cart levels) do shake up the formula, but a few levels which feature enemies do hamper the easygoing nature of the game. I also ran into a few bugs during my time with the game, which mostly consisted of falling through the floor into a never-ending drop, or clipping through scenery unexpectedly. These technical issues don’t ruin the game by any stretch of the imagination, but they are noticeable every now and then.
A few odd design and technical issues aside, TurnOn manages to surprise, delivering a charming, endearing title that manages to capitalize on its simple, laid-back approach to platforming. Coupled with colorful visuals and a delightful soundtrack, it’s the perfect game to complement a rainy afternoon or lazy Sunday. If you’re looking for something a little bit more mellowed in nature, TurnOn has you covered.
This review was based on the Xbox One version of the game, which was provided to us.
With its laid-back approach to platforming, and excellent use of color and sound, you'd be hard pressed to find a game as charming and endearing as TurnOn.