Game: “Meet me at Noon”
I’m a gamer who loves to engage his brain. Whether it’s prepping combos in tactical RPG combat or a deck builder that requires careful planning, I enjoy it when a game takes my intelligence seriously and gives me plenty to think about. I was happy then when the adorable turn-based puzzler Meet me at NooN landed on my desk, where some serious thought is required to make it through every level. Pandaroo Interactive certainly put my brain through a serious workout!
At A Glance
|Positives||+ Clever and unique mechanics |
+ Alterations on the core system to add variety
+ Pretty, storybook aesthetic with adorable characters
|Negatives||– Mechanics not fully explained|
– Random difficulty spikes
– No variation in soundtrack and visuals
|Price (When Reviewed)||£7.19|
|Our Playtime||3 hours 30 mins|
As with many puzzle games, the premise of Meet me at NooN sounds simple, but the execution is much more complicated. The player takes control of two adorable characters, each likened after one half of an hourglass; one represents the sun and the other, the moon. The idea is to move the characters around so that they each occupy a designated space in the 2D environment at the same time – simple, right?
The movement is turn-based and there’s a timeline at the bottom of the screen that shows when each character can move – the sun guy can only move in the ‘daylight hours’ and the moon character only at ‘night time’. But the opposite character doesn’t just lie dormant when it’s not their turn to move – their actions actually unwind on a turn-by-turn basis! This means that you have to plan your actions in both forward and backwards time, and makes for some absolutely mind-boggling planning in some of the more complicated levels.
You’ll have to jump at the right time in order for your character to hang in time and allow your companion to pass, fall into holes so that your pal can use you as a lift to a higher areas and stand in their way to block them, preventing the time loop from undoing a vital move to reaching victory.
Throw in the fact that there’s an optional star-shaped collectible on each level and the added wrinkle that some of these stars can only be picked up on specific turns, and there’s a lot to consider in each level. You can ignore the stars, of course, but you’ll need them if you want to unlock all of the worlds available, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to get them just to prove that you can’t be outsmarted! Sadly, I have to admit that Meet me at NooN gave my pride some significant punishment in that regard!
Pandaroo Interactive have done a great job of manipulating their core mechanics as the game progresses in order to add a little variety just when things begin to get stale. Initially you’re asked to action all of the sun moves before moving onto the moon, but later in the game you’re asked to plan the moves in alternating fashion for each character, adding another moving part to the puzzle. Later still you’ll run into disappearing/reappearing platforms, and my personal favourite, time-stop worlds, where you have to plan ALL of your moves out before the characters play them back in one long list. There’s a really nice change of pace introduced with each of these tweaks, and it was refreshing to amend your thinking after scratching your head on the same problems for a while.
Sadly, these alterations only go so far, and I did find the puzzles becoming rather samey by the latter portion of the game. Aside from an indicator of where your companion will move next (based on their previous moves), there’s also no hint or assistance system to speak of, so between the repetition and some pretty stark spikes in difficulty, Meet me at NooN struggled to hold my attention as I moved through the last few worlds.
For a game with an impressive hidden complexity, I appreciate that it’s hard to go into detail with explaining the mechanics without basically playing the game for your audience, but I did find Meet me at NooN a little lacking in explanation – especially in some of the secondary mechanics. For example, it’s never explained that the moon character ‘weighs’ more than the sun character, and can not only block his moves but actually push him around, but the same cannot be said vice-versa. It becomes clear when you’re playing the relevant levels, but it’s never highlighted to you as a player and you’re expected to fiddle with things outside of the core mechanics which feels a little underhanded in a game that’s already pretty difficult to get your head around.
I absolutely love the visuals for Meet me at NooN, which would look right at home on the oversized glossy pages of a children’s story book. The aesthetic has a chunky and playful look that evokes a light-hearted mood that plays off against the (sometimes) frustrating puzzles really nicely. I particularly enjoyed the game’s colour palette; the vibrant yellow and orange of the daytime contrasts wonderfully with the rich, deep blues of the night and makes the transitions incredibly effective. The characters are sweet as hell too and would make wonderful mascots for a wider range of games, such is their uniqueness and style.
I also really enjoyed the soundtrack to Meet me at NooN, as limited as it might be. There’s some twinkly music that’s lovely and that leans into the sun and moon theme really nicely; it’s soothing and calm, and it doesn’t intrude on your thoughts while you’re trying to work out the solution to the problem. There’s some sweet little movement sounds that add to the cuteness of the characters too.
Unfortunately for both the graphics and sound departments, Meet me at NooN suffers from a lack of variety and this ultimately affected my scoring in those categories at the top of the review. There’s but a single backdrop and backing track for the entire game, and this only underlined the repetition that I felt in the puzzles, reminding me time and again that I’m doing the same thing over and over. Had there been some changes in scenery, colour palettes or backing music, this might have helped give a different feel to each world and give more of an impression of change to the player. I did love everything that I saw and heard from Meet me at NooN, I just thought it was a shame that there isn’t more variation to showcase the wonderful styling to the full.
Meet me at NooN is a unique and stylish puzzler that will be very popular among fans of the genre, particularly those who enjoy games at the higher end of the difficulty spectrum. It’s a pretty little game that will keep you on your toes with some very cleverly thought out mechanics, but the difficulty spikes and lack of variety in all areas might turn off more casual fans. Meet me at NooN has a great premise and execution but is ultimately pegged back by a repetitiveness that saps some of the enjoyment as things progress.
In the interest of full disclosure, VGamingNews was provided with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.