I’m an Enterprise Software Developer by trade and also a lover of puzzle gaming. Seems I’d be crazy to jump on a game that offers both worlds meshed into one, right? Any thought of mixing programming into my “escape from reality” time typically doesn’t appeal to me. The premise of developer Vivid Helix‘s Neon Noodles, now in early access on Steam, was too much to resist. The game offers up a cool recipe but unfortunately needs to bake a bit longer. Welcome to our hands-on preview of Vivid Helix’s Neon Noodles on Steam PC!
You’ll be playing in a cyberpunk world where you are the head “chef” at a futuristic food factory/restaurant known as Neon Noodles. The game is essentially a machine-building puzzle game. The development team took inspiration from such games as such as Opus Magnum and Infinifactory. You’ll be designing and building an automated kitchen to prepare meals using robot sous-chefs.
For each level, you’re given a set of recipes to fulfil and a limited amount of resources to place onto a grid. You’ll be cooking up things like quiche, guacamole, ramen, spaetzle, etc. The game shows the steps necessary to get there. You just need to figure out object placement, robot commands, robot movement, etc. In later levels, you’ll need to program multiple robots to perform actions “asynchronously” to get the best food “score”.
When we first started to preview the game the keyboard support was lacking. The use of a controller was highly recommended. Since then the developers have released an update with more thorough keyboard support. We tried both methods and at this point, it’s more of which do you prefer. We recommend picking a control type and sticking with it since memorizing the command strokes makes level completion go faster.
The game supports undo and redo and you can actually edit a “program” (series of commands) in the middle of the programming “command stream”. The game also keeps stats on the area you’ve used for object placement, the number of programmed steps, etc. At the end of each level, you’re shown a graph on how you compared to other players on that level. You can then go back and try to be more efficient or proceed to the next level.
During a level, you’ll go through a few stages. First item placement, then code the actions, then playback the program to see if you met the objective.
While the concepts and “automated kitchen” idea is a great premise for a puzzle game what needs further work here is the user interface and help system.
For the user interface, it takes some getting used to in regards to programming the actions. Things like “slicing” aren’t their own specific action. Instead, you need to perform a generic action on a slicing table to perform the slicing. But it’s the same generic code instruction to perform a drop item and pick-up item. They actually show up as generic instructions in the undo queue. When you’re editing a sequence directly this can get confusing.
In regards to the help system, one of the earlier puzzles mentioned a concept called “linking across robots” on an objective screen. It didn’t immediately occur to me as to what they were asking for. It took some on-line research to figure out they meant using multiple robots to perform tasks in unison. Perhaps ignorance on my part but I shouldn’t have to work this hard to figure out what I’m being asked to do. Currently, I didn’t find any in-game help and the early levels act as a tutorial. Typically though on small teams, this is one of those last things addressed.
Thankfully the development team seems to be listening to their users on Steam. The keyboard interface, for example, is much better than it was earlier at the beginning of early access. If you don’t mind a little frustration, then buy now, otherwise wait it out until they leave early access and then enjoy the feast!