Neurovoider Review

Have you ever played one of those games where the soundtrack so strongly outclasses anything else in the game that it's not even fair? 

That's not meant to disparage Neurovoider – but I just need to get out of the way before anything else, this game has such a good, strong dark synth soundtrack that one of my favorite things to do was just hang out in the levels and groove. 

I got a better chance to groove like that only after the levels were done because this game is frantic and unrelenting. It doesn't give you the time to stop and just experience what's going on around you. It's only when everything is dead and all the loot's finally collected that you can take a moment and breathe. The music pumps, little pick-ups glitter on the ground, and your ship hums quietly in the darkness. 

The descriptor salad for Neurovoider describes it as a run-based, loot-driven, pixel-art, twin-stick roguelike in the vein of something like a Nuclear Throne, but with a more cyberpunk aesthetic. There's so much going on with this, but suffice to say, you've probably played a game similar to this before – they're so hot right now and each's worth is really a question of what it brings new to the table. 

There are a couple of things. While the levels are randomly generated, each section is a somewhat branching path, and it lets you choose your next area, showing stats for the amount of enemies, area size, amount of loot, etc for each area, letting you choose what you want. If you're low on health you might want to do a smaller area with fewer foes, but if you're feeling lucky, you can take a branch down an area full of enemies to grab yourself some extra cash. 

I like this idea a lot because I often feel like these types of games have too steep a difficulty ramp – and if you haven't gotten the good weapons or random drops, you're just gonna be sunk. This lets you evaluate where you are and make a decision for how you think you can best survive, or which risks you want to take, which I much prefer. 

Along the way, you grab loot for your little robot, who comes in one of three flavors: Dash (invulnerable during a dash), Fortress (can create a super shield) and rampage (which can... rampage). On these basic cores, you load yourself up with a new skill, something like an ability to teleport yourself to safety or heal yourself, or even passive ones like making all found weapons be a specific type. 

This loot is where the "like" in the roguelike comes in, as these are found as you go through the level and are permanent additions that increase the number of skills you can choose from at the beginning. The rest of the loot is run-based, and you can actually swap out basically every part of yourself, and upgrade parts you particularly like before throwing yourself back into a new area. 

It follows the usual loot rareness ratings, but holy crap do the items have amazing and ridiculous names. I found a laser gun called the "Loving Light Wrath of Dummy Lubrication," "The Big Shotgun of Triple Breakfast," and a personal favorite, a flamethrower called "The Flames of Judgment." Shoutouts to the person/people behind their naming conventions, because they were entirely on point! 

While I did like playing the game, there is s a little bit of fiddliness from the Switch's analog sticks. I find them a little imprecise and it can be easy for my fingers to slip/twitch in a way that makes it so I'm no longer aiming quite in the correct direction. Even when it is working, a lot of the strategy to the levels kinda comes down to just "run backward while dumping all your guns!!!!" And while it's still fun to do that because it's so fast and frantic, it's not exactly the deepest experience. 

Also it's 4-player? Though I unfortunately never got to try with more than one person, I imagine that would quickly get very hectic, maybe to the point of distraction – though I'm just thinking of my tiny Switch screen. it would probably be better on a big TV, where you have more screen real estate. 

But this is another one of those games that having it on the go makes a big difference. If I was reviewing the PC version of this (available on a Steam page near you and held in good regard) I'd basically just shrug it off – run-based games like this have a hard time keeping my attention when I'm just sitting at home (see my review of Downwell), but when I'm taking it around with me, it's much more likely for me to pop in and do a couple of rounds. I can put the Switch to sleep, I can suspend a run and come back to it later. Even if I jump back into a run, I can come in with extra people if I so choose, which is pretty cool. 

Neurovoider is a fun twin-stick shooter and is especially great to have and take around with me everywhere I go. The moody soundtrack bangs, the game's frantic and fast, and the loot system is engaging as you build yourself up and find new and amazingly named things. It's especially perfect if you need a game that you can play a quick couple of rounds of while you're waiting somewhere or on a commute – it starts to feel a little samey and doesn't do too much to set itself apart as different from other similar games, but it's a good time nonetheless.