Version Reviewed: Nintendo Switch
(Copy purchased by the Reviewer)
When gazing upon the pixelated industrial complexes that encompass the majority of NeuroVoider’s innumerable randomly-generated dungeon-arenas, you’d be forgiven for dismissing it as a woefully mundane aesthetic experience that does little to set itself apart from the countless other twin-stick roguelikes all furiously vying for our attention. The deluge of sombre greys, blacks and blues do little to ignite a fire of dazzling colour within your eyes. Thankfully, despite the rather lacklustre visual spectacle, NeuroVoider manages to impress where it matters most.
The crowning achievement of NeuroVoider is undoubtedly the awe-inspiring levels of customisation on offer. Upon booting up a game, players can choose from three distinct robotic killing machines, each with their own special abilities, unique advantages, and specific upgrade packages. The Dash bot, for example, is a lightning-fast attack droid that can rush through enemy fire without taking damage, providing the perfect close-combat combatant for those looking to slice-and-dice the circuits of their metallic opponents up close and personal. Fortress, on the other hand, is a monstrous mobile battle tank that, while about as nimble as bulldozer, can take a serious amount of punishment thanks to both its frighteningly thick armour and super shield special ability, perfectly suiting those players who favour all-out firepower as a means to dispatch their foes.
In addition to the three class choices on offer, NeuroVoider also allows you to further customise your robotic death-dealer by equipping them one of twenty-seven distinct skills and abilities, each of which can drastically alter your gameplay experience to the point where it can be the difference between success of failure. Self-Repair, for example, is an essential skill – especially for novice players – restoring one third of your bot’s total health with each deployment. Unfortunately, not all of the available skills are as useful – there were several notable ones that I found myself avoiding at all costs due to their lacklustre benefits and painful trade-offs. Thankfully, there are enough good skills on offer to provide a decent level of replayability, but the relative uselessness of some is an a little disappointing.
Fortunately, NeuroVoider’s modular upgrade system more than makes up for the deficiencies present within the aforementioned skills department. As you destroy enemies, you’ll acquire parts scraps that you can use to upgrade your robot. These including the head, body, movement system, as well as your primary and secondary weapons systems. There are thousands of potential parts to collect and combinations to try, and it is here that the game truly shines. The weapon options are particularly enticing – you can choose anything from simple lead-spitting shotguns and missile launchers to flamethrowers, swords, and even mini nuclear bombs. Deciding which weapons to utilise is essential to navigating the plethora of randomly-generated dungeons successfully, and I often found myself backed into an inescapable corner due to the fact that I choose the wrong weapon set-up.
Multiplayer, too, is an exhilarating addition that further enhances the game’s overall replay value. NeuroVoider allows you to team-up with up to three others, all of whom can fully customise their own robotic lead-spewers. Trying to find the perfect team-combo to rival such memorable collaborations such as the Power Rangers or the Avengers is a great co-op experience, even if things can get rather chaotic at times. Having four players on-screen at one time, shooting away to their heart’s content, can often result in a rather messy visual experience that obscures the action, making the game harder than it needs to be. That said, however, the co-op mode is a great addition, and I’d highly recommend playing with a group of friends if you can.
Of course, all this customisation would be pointless without an engaging gameplay experience. Thankfully, NeuroVoider, for the most part, manages to craft an exhilarating gameplay experience that more than matches the game’s superb customisation options. Controlling your robot is a near-effortless task, allowing you to gracefully glide across the map without feeling like you have a pair of concrete flippers strapped to your feet. Dodging enemy fire is a little more difficult thanks to the Switch’s rather sluggish thumbsticks, yet with practice you can overcome the console’s deficiencies. This, of course, is not desirable, are really the game should do a better job of circumnavigating the Switch’s somethings stiff control system. During high-octane combat moments, like boss fights for example, I found the occasional lack of graceful moment very frustrating, a factor that often lead to a number of frustrating deaths. It’s not a deal-breaker, but it prevents NeuroVoider from equalling the very best of its competitors. This is concerning given how crowded the genre is these days, and while the Switch is currently devoid of similar titles, given the console’s rampant popularity, I expect the game to fall into obscurity sometime in the near-future.
For the most part, NeuroVoider is a game that will keep you playing for weeks on end thanks to its incredible customisation and engaging gameplay systems. Mixing-and-matching your robot is a fantastic experience, and the quest to find that perfect killer combination will suck up a lot of your spare time. If it wasn’t for the rather mundane visual style and occasionally rigid control scheme, NeuroVoider would be one of the greats of the twin-stick shooter genre. Instead, it is but a notable inclusion that, while enjoyable to play, isn’t remarkable enough to be remembered as a classic.