I am a big fan of twin stick shooters, and one of my favorites is Crimsonland, for its trademark bullet spraying, blood spurting intensity. Neon Chrome is the latest game from 10tons Ltd, the makers of Crimsonland, so I was very interested in seeing how their newest release compared to a game that I love so much. With Neon Chrome, 10tons has taken their tried and true twin stick shooter formula and put it in a procedurally generated cyberpunk dungeon crawler. Everything in Neon Chrome works well; the levels are well balanced and varied, every character upgrade is rewarding and makes the game feel fresh, and the gameplay manages to be addicting and brutally difficult at the same time. It’s a game that will fill a hole for fans of twin stick shooters who seek a deeper gameplay experience.
The overall objective of Neon Chrome is to defeat the Overseer, the despotic ruler of the the futuristic setting of the game. The player takes on the role of a rebel hacker who controls Assets, cybernetically enhanced avatars that the player controls remotely. The use of these disposable Assets are a clever way to work the game’s roguelike mechanics into the story; you control an Asset who blasts through a level, earning money and gaining items. Once an Asset dies, your character exits the control seat, and spends the earned money on upgrades; such as health, damage, luck, etc., and abilities; which mostly take the form of special attacks, for your next run.
Before beginning a new run, you choose a weapon and a set of enhancements, which buff certain stats for the Asset for that playthrough. Trying new weapon and enhancement combos really changes up the gameplay, forcing players to change their play style to best make use of that combos advantages. When the next run begins, your Asset will start at the first level of that game section, only better equipped to hopefully make it further before being killed. And you will be killed a lot. Neon Chrome is almost punishingly difficult, especially in the beginning, but the game’s procedurally generated levels and constant upgrades make every playthrough feel fresh. Neon Chrome also doesn’t fall into the same trap of making success only possible through grinding. Upgrading your Assets does make the game easier, but the game never feels like it is putting up an impassable wall that can only be overcome by grinding until your Asset is strong enough. Neon Chrome also keeps gameplay fresh by having various Asset roles; such as hacker, assassin, or soldier; each with their own advantages and different advantages. While some of the classes definitely feel more useful than others, they are varied enough to keep each playthrough feeling fresh.
Gameplay wise, Neon Chrome feels great; the shooting is smooth, striking the right balance between between speed and precision so you can’t just spray and pray to clear out a room just as you can’t spend two minutes lining up a perfect shot. While the levels are randomly generated each playthrough, they always feel well balanced in terms of design; there was rarely a time that the level felt too easy or difficult because of a surplus or disparity in health or energy pickups, and as with the shooting mechanics, the way Neon Chrome doles out health pickups always felt measured to give you just enough to make the level formidible without being severe.
From a presentation standpoint, Neon Chrome is a bit of mixed bag; the graphics aren’t exactly pretty but they’re serviceable enough. The game’s music is a real highpoint, using heavy synths and dark tones to effectively communicate a feeling of an oppressive society in a cyberpunk future.
I am hard pressed to find huge flaws or oversights with Neon Chrome, but if I had to choose one I’d say that its biggest shortcoming stems from the ability upgrading system. As stated above, an Asset’s ability is a special attack that can be used to deal high damage in desperate situations, and the first ability you are given is the micro missile, a weapon I found to be consistently more effective than the higher tier abilities. This resulted in me ignoring the ability skill tree after a while and just spending my money on upgrading other stats.
Neon Chrome is a game that takes the genres of twin stick shooting and roguelike dungeon crawlers, and combines them to create a game that is easy to learn, but difficult to master. The game’s tight shooting mechanics, customization options, and procedurally generated levels keep the gameplay challenging without becoming repetitive. As long as you can look past a few design flaws and don’t mind slightly dated graphics, Neon Chrome is a game for anyone who wants strategy and destruction in a single package.