Immediately engrossing, NeonXSZ feels like playing a more arcadey interpretation of X3: Terran Conflict on fast forward. You’re plopped into the middle of a sandbox of dogfighting, and need to gradually master all six of your degrees of freedom if you want to get anywhere. Customizable difficulty, lots of upgrades and weapons and ships to play with, and fun challenge arenas and procedurally-generated tasks make for a fast-paced, player-driven experience. Nice bright high-contrast visuals pay homage to Tron and are highly customizable, and the low penalty for death (at first) encourages you to keep extending beyond what you think you’re capable of, to never play things too safe.

What you’ll discover as you get farther is that everything you’re doing consumes your main currency, uranium. Whenever you thrust needlessly, or fire weapons without thinking, you’re consuming uranium, which is also used to respawn, to purchase upgrades, and to use teleporters. You can gain it by doing tasks and killing enemies, but as you move up along the power curve, you’re forced to learn more advanced, more elegant and efficient, techniques. Failing to use your power responsibly, or trying to farm things that are way below your level for too long, could put you in danger of not having enough energy to respawn, should you die. The way the game nudges you gradually toward both this realization and to increasing challenge and player skill is pretty brilliant.

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