I've always had a soft spot for twin-stick shooter games. The genre as a whole is just plain easy to pick up, learn quickly, and have a ton of fun with. Neon Chrome is no exception, but its not quite your average twin-stick shooter either, so let's take a look at this game a little more in-depth.
Set in a cyberpunk dystopia, the city in Neon Chrome is controlled by "The Overseer" who assesses each of his citizens based on their loyalty level (oh boy, this is going to end well...). As you can guess, getting a "red" mark is bad and punishable by death, something the Overseer sees to personally through a neural network that allows him to control all of the guards and security systems throughout the city. The Overseer isn't the only one who can remote-control soldiers though, as you take control of a nameless citizen who just happens to have control of a warehouse full of soldiers. Talk about fighting fire with fire!
Truth be told, that brief story summary is about as much story as you are going to get (if you're looking for a great cyberpunk-themed tale, this isn't it), but it does provide the game play a decent hook. You see, Neon Chrome is at its heart not only a twin-stick shooter, but a rogue-like as well. Each time you die, you will have to awaken a new operative to take his place but not before you use the gains from your previous "life" as a way to become stronger by purchasing upgrades to improve your soldier's statistics. Think Rogue Legacy, just in a top-down twin-stick shooter form. This likeness to Rogue Legacy even includes the ability (and randomness) to choose one of three options when awakening a new soldier as each choice makes you pick from different classes, weapons and abilities.
Where Neon Chrome really differs from other twin-stick shooters though is its distinctive focus on strategy, which is something you really don't see in the genre. Sure, games like Dead Nation and Alienation provide some strategy with multiple weapons or abilities to choose from, but they usually tie those choices to situations (certain weapons for certain enemies...). Neon Chrome, on the other hand, has you fighting through floors full of various rooms and obstacles. Taking a moment to assess how you want to approach a situation and minimize your risk is as much a part of Neon Chrome as the shooting itself.
"Do I want to shoot through this wall and sneak-attack this guard, or maybe just use a rocket since the hallway is so narrow... gah, if only my character was a hacker so I could use that turret over there!". Moments like that are where Neon Chrome shines the brightest. Combine the strategy with a host of weapons and abilities to unlock and use along with the randomly-generated levels and you have yourself some fantastic top-down game play.
Where Neon Chrome comes up short, however (besides the story... if you are looking for one) is its presentation. The game just doesn't LOOK that good. The graphics here look like something from the PS2-era, with low resolution and relatively generic environments. Not to mention the repetitive graphic assets (which admittedly most rogue-like games come with). The graphics here are SO OUTDATED that I actually found myself looking at what the developer had done in the past, which is when it hit me: this game actually hails from the mobile marketplace and wasn't made for the PS4 (or PC even). Well, that explains things a bit! The audio of the game is also a bit sub-par. For example, enemy guards will shout "Halt!" or "Stop!" out at you, but it sounds like the voices are garbled and far away. The actual music of the game is OK, though. It's very much your standard "cyberpunk-themed" music tracks that fit with the game as a whole, but it's also very repetitive and unmemorable as well.
Being a rogue-like, Neon Chrome comes pre-packaged with great re-playability right from the start. It took me about five hours (a little less) to actually beat the game the first time, but once you do you automatically unlock a "New Game +" mode that they call "Overseer 2.0", which ups the difficulty and rewards. I didn't come anywhere close to unlocking all of the game's abilities and finding all of its secret rooms (which are given to you randomly), so there's plenty to keep you busy should you so choose. Neon Chrome also has local four player co-op as well, so you can actually play with a friend if you wish. Just to be clear, though: there is NO online co-op at all, which is a bit of a bummer.
All in all, I enjoyed my time with Neon Chrome. It delivers the basics of why I like twin-stick shooters and adds its own mark with an emphasis on strategy and a cool cyberpunk theme. Granted, the game has a few shortcomings such as a non-existent story and sub-par graphics, as well as being rather short and having no online co-op, but if you're looking for something easy to pick up and play (especially with a friend) you could definitely do a lot worse!