Welcome to Hell
Title: Neon Abyss
Platform: Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4 (reviewed), and Xbox One
Developer: Veewo Games
Publisher: Team17 Digital Ltd.
Release date: Out Now
tl;dr: Great idea destroyed by questionable controls
Price: £16 / $20
Family Focus: Click here for more information.
Neon Abyss stars a nameless protagonist who wakes up in a bar and realizes that he is stuck in Hell. To survive, he needs to go through 5 levels of running, jumping and shooting in order to lift the curse. Unfortunately, every time he dies, he starts over on a different level. Can you survive?
Neon Abyss is a 2D run n’ gun shooter set in a roguelike environment; meaning that no two playthroughs will be the same because every time you die, the levels’ layout will change. Levels are also Metroidvania-like where you have to go around, room to room, to find the boss before moving forward to the next level. It can be useful to explore each level so you can earn more money and find Eggs (more on that a bit below).
As you navigate through the levels, you’ll come across treasure chests, some of which will include eggs. Once picked up, the eggs will follow up until they hatch. While some of the time, it won’t hatch anything, other times, it’ll hatch helpful little buddies that can fire additional bullets or protect the character from enemy projectiles. Unfortunately, your little companions aren’t immortal as they can be killed by enemies.
If and when you survive from level to level in a single playthrough, you’ll come across items that will give you a leg up on the enemies. You’ll be able to pick up items that increase your rate of fire, your health, shields which gives you an added layer of protection, etc… This is will be of great help the further you make it. But remember: if you die, you lose it all.
The biggest problem with the game is the controls: it features a twin-stick style mechanic to shoot your weapon and uses a shoulder button to jump by default. Thankfully, players can change the default jump button to something more convenient like a face button… except the OK button. For example, on PS4, you use the X button to OK changes and navigate menus, but you can’t use it to map the Jump to it. And additionally, you cannot map shooting to a trigger or face button. You can also use (limited) grenades, which is mapped to the Square button (on PS4), but reflex will have you press the grenade button to shoot so you end up wasting them.
Another problem and a questionable addition as well, the developers implemented a password-like system. Every time you die, you’re given a short password that can be used at a statue outside the bar after you die. But the problem is, you are actually penalized for using it. Trophies and Achievements will be locked and you can’t use Faith Gems to unlock new characters (among other things). Why even bother with this considering the game is pretty short (5 levels) and why penalize players for using it?
Neon Abyss is definitely its best appeal. It’s a world full of synth-wave inspired colour patterns that give it a unique aesthetic. While the levels are procedurally generated after every death, there’s not much of a difference in the visuals; almost as it going through the similar-looking level over and over again. The soundtrack adds a layer of intensity to the sometimes crazy on-screen action. It’s upbeat, rock-like with a pinch of synth-wave making for a unique combination.
On paper, Neon Abyss sounds great. A 2D run n’ gun with random levels after every death? It could’ve been so much more, unfortunately, the controls pretty much killed it for me. While you’ll die often, it’ll be mostly due to the clunky controls and the lack of option to remap them. Twin stick controls work best in shumps. In a 2D game like Neon Abyss, it adds a level of unnecessary frustration. This is an easy pass considering the better options available in the genre.
- Great aesthetic.
- Great boss design.
- Frustrating and counterintuitive controls.
- Pointless password system.
Neon Abyss is rated T for Teen and PEGI 16 due to blood, crude humor, gore and violence.
This review is based on a review copy of the game provided by the publisher