Following what appears to be a meteor strike at a city power station, the surrounding areas are plunged into darkness and chaos soon ensues. Traffic lights are malfunctioning, carnival rides are going berserk and the cover of darkness is all too tempting for those who are up to no good. Only you can restore power to Electro City and bring back some semblance of order by controlling Turnon, an electrical spark who holds the key to bringing light back to the world.
TurnOn is a platformer at heart, although your platforms are power lines that Turnon runs along, sparking from foreground to background to find the next conductive line, using depth in a way rarely seen in this genre. The levels are slow paced, with simple goals laid out via short comic strip introductions and the emphasis being on exploring the area and lighting up as much of the city as you can. Your electric abilities will automatically light any lamps you touch and activate generators and switches you come into contact with.
The game takes place over several episodes, with each being broken down into smaller sub levels lasting a few minutes each. As Turnon explores the many regions of the city - from the power station, through the suburbs and city centre, he'll encounter many of the local inhabitants and help them on their way. The first of these is a young scientist who befriends Turnon and helps him throughout his adventure, but you'll also be tasked with tasks ranging from lighting the way so a young girl can safely find her way home to setting the scene for a romantic rendezvous. Each of these little sub stories shows the way that Turnon's little acts of kindness change the lives of those around him and will leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling of contentment.
The scene is set with charming cartoon artwork and a soundtrack which pitches the mood of each level. Although TurnOn will only take you a few hours to complete, there is a lot of repetition to the music and those who are more sensitive to that may get irritated by some of the weaker songs. This is especially noticeable in the scrolling levels, where you must travel across the power lines on rails from one end of the level to the other avoiding damaging lightning bolts and perilous drops. Having played these types of levels in other games, there's an expectation that these will be perfectly set to the music and will offer rewarding aural feedback when you nail a well timed jump or drop. It's disappointing that this isn't the case and these levels feel too slow and too long. Strangely, they occasionally do speed up which almost makes them more frustrating as it offers a brief glimpse of what could have been.
When the game sticks to the fundamentals of exploration, simple puzzle solving and helping out the citizens of Electro City, it's a sweet and charming tale that is easy and relaxing for gamers of any age. Turnon snaps from foreground to background effortlessly most of the time and the puzzles are usually just a case of exploring the area to find the next power point to activate. There are occasional issues where the character won't attach to power lines properly and will float in mid-air on a non existent platform, but he usually snaps right back into place when you move him closer to a wire. There were also some issues with the responsiveness of the controls which only adds to the frustration of the scrolling levels. The problem with these minor points is that they occur with unwelcome frequency and detract from the overall polish of the game.
Each level rewards you with one to three lit lamps based on your points collected on that run, but there doesn't seem to be much reason to collect these other than to pick up achievements (which may well be a big motivator.) We found ourselves simply wanting to light all the lamps in the level because that was the nicest, most peaceful and relaxing thing to do and there is a gentleness to the game that makes you want to light up the city and make its inhabitants happy and safe. This is the interesting thing about this unassuming little electric spark. You'll control him on a simple adventure and before you know it he'll have worked his way into your heart.
Oozing charm and potential, this really is a great example of what a small development team can achieve and Brainy Studio's pride in their creation is alluded to throughout the game. It's undeniable that TurnOn does a lot of things right, which makes it sadly all the more noticeable when something doesn't quite hit the mark. Even so, if you give it some time, there's a chance that you'll find a place in your heart for Turnon's journey through Electro City's night of darkness.