Did you enjoy Blade Runner: 2049 and wish there were more things like it? Fear not! Palm Pioneer and Zodiac Interactive have heard your call and will satisfy your cyberpunk noir cravings with Tales of the Neon Sea. How is it similar? Well for starters, it’s about a retired detective in a futuristic city who’s brought back into business once a new piece of evidence appears in an old case. Oh, and it’s also got a subplot about his cat. Which I’m pretty sure wasn’t in the Blade Runner: 2049 but I may have nodded off during one of the slower scenes so who’s to say.
Speaking with Mitch and Xing, cofounders of Zodiac Interactive, at PAX East this past weekend, I was able to learn more. Sure, the retro-styled adventure game is a gritty futuristic noir. But it also aims to set itself apart through its quirks, charm, and even horror. The biggest deviation from expectations is that William will play a large role in the game. William, by the way, is Detective Mist’s cat. “You’ll play as the cat a lot,” Xing told me. “He’s the Watson to your Sherlock Holmes.”
And play as the cat I did. In fact, that was one of the most interesting and unexpected parts of the demo. After playing as Detective Mist investigating an alleged ghost in his apartment, I took over as William. The 2D adventure had me climbing up the outside of a building to get to a high-ranking family of cats, solving puzzles along the way. Once I reached them, the game started paying homage to The Godfather as the head cat of the family promised me help in exchange for loyalty.
The famous crime-family allusion is no accident. Mitch and Xing mentioned that the team is a big fan of a number of films and peppered the game with a number of Easter Eggs. The main story is inspired by such works as Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell, which shows through the cyberpunk design. Yet the game is very much its own thing, as the Chengdu based team sought to marry cyberpunk culture with Chinese aesthetics. Playing through the demo I noticed one or two other references, such as Detective Mist’s cowardly robot bearing the name BB-X. The team expands on pre-conceived notions in other ways, as they peppered the dark noir plot with quirky jokes and jests. Its a testament to the translation team that these quips carried over in English from the original Chinese, as far as I could see with the demo.
While no release date has been confirmed, Zodiac Interactive hopes to launch Tales of the Neon Sea on Steam around late summer.