Cyberpunk is once more in vogue. If Deus Ex: Mankind Divided wasn’t clear enough, look to the resurgence of Blade Runner in cinemas, or in the little game Neon Chrome from developer 10tons. Releasing last year on iOS, Steam, Xbox One, PS Vita, and PS4, Neon Chrome sees a release on Nintendo Switch today. But is it a title worthy of player’s attention in a quickly crowded eShop full of indie titles? It turns out that yes, it is – in quick spurts.
Neon Chrome: Xbox One, Nintendo Switch [Reviewed], PS4, PC, PS Vita, iOS
Release Date: 28 April 2016/ Nintendo Switch 12 October 2017
Price: $14.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Developer/Publisher]
Neon Chrome is set in a cyberpunk future in a single building housing a million people whose safety is guarded by a single Overseer. The Overseer is tied directly into the building’s mainframe by a neural interface. And like many a game villain before, he has decided to remove those deemed untrustworthy from his residence. The player takes the role of an unknown hacker who uses a similar neural interface to use assets and usurp the Overseer. The story itself is fairly light, but it serves well enough as once the gameplay starts, the story doesn’t really count for much.
That gameplay takes great inspiration from classic titles like Robotron 2084 and uses a twin-stick shooting mechanic. Multiple weapons are available and over time become upgraded in their base damage, fire rate, reload time, clip size, and damage per second stats. Weapons also come in bullet, ion, and plasma flavors to damage different enemies more strongly. Alternate weapons are available like a frag grenade or homing missiles meant to deal massive damage in a larger area. If ever you’ve played another twin-stick shooter, you should feel right at home.
While moving from floor to floor, players can unlock different weapons, abilities, and cybernetic enhancements as they move along. These upgrades also become available once the player dies. The player is sent to a staging ground where the anonymous hacker selects an asset and equips them with what has been found along the way. The more the player dives into the game, the more can be equipped at each new beginning. This roguelike element only penalizes the player by forcing them to restart in the same bracket of floors that they had died in. The additions of the RPG and roguelike elements give wrinkles of strategy to an otherwise straightforward title and allows players to play to their strengths.
The isometric point-of-view of Neon Chrome also lends itself wonderfully to different play styles, including both run-and-gun and stealth. Both methods will cause some chaos and commotion amplified by a nearly completely destructible environment. The only exception to the destruction are any doors requiring keys to open. Otherwise, players are free to play how they would like without penalties either way.
The environments themselves are procedurally generated, meaning that save for boss fights or levels with special events, each level is randomly created. It works well as I did not notice any repeated areas in my playtime, however, the environments have the same neon-dipped feel, where just about every object in the environment gives off a soft glow. This has the unfortunate side effect of having each floor feel the same regardless of what the floor was intended to be. The look of characters whether they are enemies or player characters doesn’t look any better. Most of the time you only have the aerial view of characters, but characters are not well modelled. That being said, the tradeoff is that Neon Chrome runs beautifully smooth 95% of the time. That smoothness of play is present on Nintendo Switch whether the console is docked or in hand-held form.
While you can go it alone, Neon Chrome becomes infinitely more enjoyable with more people playing. Imagine if Gauntlet Legends had less magic, but more explosions and you have a general idea of how much frantic and pure fun can be had. The only downside to the multiplayer is that there is still no online co-op which holds true for every platform the title is available on. This also forces players to stay in the same screen area, making more advanced tactics difficult to set up. Even so, having up to four other players running and gunning makes Neon Chrome feel like a Michael Bay explosion-fest in the best possible way.
The music of Neon Chrome is unexpectedly a bright spot. Synthesizer heavy, the soundtrack changes itself depending on the level of action going on, but never feels out of place. Sound effects deliver the necessary bombastic level of mayhem for combat but ultimately doesn’t deliver anything extraordinary. Ambient sounds like elevator music or rain falling are nice additions but are only noticeable on the quietest of levels.
Neon Chrome‘s bosses are unfortunately repeated with each trip players take up to the top. The same ones will follow the same pattern albeit with some more health, and it makes me yearn for some variety in what is presented to the player. After even the first time of eliminating these bosses, they become predictable and stop being the challenge that they used to be very quickly.
Neon Chrome is a very competent twin-stick shooter that is most enjoyable with a couch-full of friends. No online multiplayer feels like a missed opportunity, but the title is enjoyable nonetheless. That Neon Chrome prizes style over substance reflects the bright nature of its name but left me wanting more.
- Local co-op is frantic fun
- Simple but tried and true twin-stick shooter formula is fantastic
- RPG and rogue like elements give welcome strategy
- No online multiplayer is a missed opportunity
- Environments look the same on nearly every level
- Bosses repeat after initial encounters