by Camrin Santchi
reviewed on PC
A Fascinating Crawl
There is something beautiful about dungeon-crawlers, games with randomly generated maps that has gamers delving deeper into a dangerous locale. Every death is a lesson, be it to pay more attention or to learn about the mechanics of a foe or trap. Games like Enter the Gungeon, Spelunky, Binding of Isaac, or the topic of conversation today, the cyberpunk roguelite Neon Abyss.
Neon Abyss is a fascinating game, and the title tells gamers a lot about it. Neon is in reference to the vibrant colors of this world, offset by a dark and gritty environment to make them stand out all the more with a very cyberpunk aesthetic, boosted by the deep and pulsing music. Abyss, meanwhile, is in reference to the ‘dungeon’ of the dungeon crawler, the seemingly endless and ever-randomizing labyrinth that the game’s action segments take place in.
Revenge On Titan
The plot of Neon Abyss involves the god Hades, who has contracted you to get rid of a group called the Titan Group, beings that are personifications of modern culture (eagle eyed gamers will constantly catch references, such as ‘Freddy: God of plushies’, which is a nod to the infamous Five Nights at Freddy's series), which have apparently taken much of his power. These New Gods are the bosses within the Abyss, one is at the end of each procedurally generated, and after five floors gamers have to face off against one of the head New Gods.
Storywise we aren’t given much to go on, but in the introductory cutscene for the game Hades claims that the protagonist is seeking Titan Group for revenge, as good a motivation as any to listen to Hades, who specifically calls the protagonist the enemy of his enemy in that same cutscene, realizing they need to work together in order to take out their shared foe. There isn’t much more to say about them, but they are certainly determined to take out Titan Group.
Death Is Not The End
Neon Abyss is also the name of the hub area, whenever gamers die within the dungeon they wake back up inside a club that shares its name with the game. This central area allows gamers to get upgrades based on what they earn from killing bosses within the dungeon, but these upgrades apply to the dungeon rather than the player character, adding more tools and resources to the pool that the procedurally-generated dungeon pulls from when adding rewards to room types, new accessories or even weapons that can alter your playstyles. Death is not a punishment in Neon Abyss, but a way to learn lessons and improve your skills for next time, honing platforming, shooting, and evading skills that will allow gamers to avoid bullet hells caused by increasingly difficult patterns of enemies, and with luck upgrade their own abilities.
An interesting mechanic in Neon Abyss is the ‘Pets’. A random type of loot to spawn is eggs, which float around behind the player character for some time, and either reveal themselves as empty or hatch a Pet, which help in combat by firing different types of bullets. Talking about the eggs does however lead to some of the amusing ways that loot can be generated in Neon Abyss, occasionally opening a chest will reveal… another chest, and then another, and then another before finally an item pops out instead, leading to several chuckles as I delved deeper into the Neon Abyss.
The controls are tight, but the game is unforgiving, gamers will often find themselves back at the bar because they trapped themselves in a corner where enemies charged them, or they weren’t paying attention to bullet patterns. Luck is a factor in getting through the labyrinth, some seeds are better than others as far as getting favorable rooms and layouts, but even beyond that certain tools and weapons are better than others, so some upgrades may seem worthless compared to others.
While it might be this reviewer’s taste in music showing, I found the pulsing EDM music of Neon Abyss to be catchy but also rather repetitive, so on longer runs through the Abyss some gamers may find it gets tiresome. Another issue to note is just how RNG oriented the game can be, which befits the genre, but can be very dispiriting for gamers. Sometimes one needs a lot more skill because of an unlucky run, or a random roll of the dice could let a player go further than they ever have before, and the upgrades that the player can receive only add more to the already diverse pool of upgrades that can be found within the Abyss. The layout of the level itself, what kind of obstacles including spike pits and slot machine doors, if there is a store on any particular floor as well as what items are inside that store and their price.
In all, Neon Abyss is a beautifully made game that does their chosen genre justice, demonstrating a beautiful atmosphere and a challenging yet rewarding experience, when either the dice rolls in your favor or you manage to do well even despite a bad hand being given to you. If luck is on your side, Neon Abyss is chaotic fun as a run ‘n gun and bullet hell, and if luck took a sick day, well, you can still manage to accomplish a surprising amount. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna try another run...
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Interesting Mechanics, Smooth Controls, Fun Gameplay, Beautiful Style/Music
Repetitive EDM, RNG