Death is inevitable, but so is progress

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By Alexander O. Cuaycong and Anthony L. Cuaycong

NEON CHROME is an interesting top-down shooter developed by 10tons, originally released in May 2016 on the Steam, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 platforms, and ported to the Nintendo Switch late last year. Featuring rogue-lite elements combined with a decidedly cyberpunk aesthetic, the twin-stick game stands out among its many competitors by being both flashy and stylistic.

Neon Chrome’s premise is straightforward. Taking on the role of a hacker fighting against an oppressive regime and its leader, the Overseer, players pick one of three characters at the start of the game, each with a unique set of strengths and weaknesses. They must navigate their chosen avatar along multiple procedurally generated levels in order to conquer the Neon Chrome. If their chosen character dies during a level, that character is dead forever, and players must pick a new one to continue the fight.

The type of game design employed by Neon Chrome sounds simple but effective: Choose a character, go up as many floors as you can until you die, then rinse and repeat. While death is inevitable, it’s necessary for progression; once a character has died, players can use what that character has earned to purchase upgrades to make the next character more effective in combat. In other words, ultimate success is predicated on failure; setbacks lead to the addition of abilities, increases in stats, and weapons upgrades, with each successive “loss” making future runs easier by giving players more options. Death is inevitable, but so is progress.

Parenthetically, the randomized level design offers a ton of replay value, as no run will ever be the same. Some will be harder depending on the given character’s class and weapons on hand, and some will be much easier, especially if the map layout is good.

There’s a flipside, though. The randomness that enhances Neon Chrome’s worth likewise stunts it, presenting flaws that it isn’t able to fix without compromising the integrity of its game design. For one thing, the fun factor is dictated by the specific set of circumstances you will find yourself in. Due to the nature of the game, it’s almost impossible to get a setup you’d prefer at a given time. And as runs are dictated by the effectiveness of your character, it can be quite frustrating to have the programming’s RNG decide what assets you’d have at your disposal instead of giving you the freedom to choose. Meanwhile, you will occasionally be compelled to negotiate levels that border on the unfair and frustrating; yes, it’s entirely possible to have bad rolls and be placed in horrendous layouts.

Nonetheless, Neon Chrome runs extremely well on the Switch. Play is smoother on the go, but the game looks even more gorgeous docked, with colors jumping off the canvas and giving life to the many explosions and enemies on screen. While character models aren’t particularly detailed, the lighting effects are stunning given what they work with, and there’s something oddly satisfying about using an assault rifle to mow down a horde of enemies, or to breaking through a wall and rushing through to fire a missile at a foe. It’s certainly worth a recommendation just on style alone, as the bright, vibrant visuals are sure to excite.

All told, Neon Chrome definitely works as a pick-up-and-play game to use up idle time. It’s flawed and it won’t stand out in terms of mechanics, especially after hours of play, but it’s stylistic and entertaining enough to merit its $14.99 price tag on the eShop.

Video Game Review

Neon Chrome
Nintendo Switch

• High replay value due to randomized classes/levels

• Runs smoothly

• Outstanding art style and theme

• Healthy variety of weapons, abilities, and classes on offer

• RNG classes and maps can get frustrating

• Balanced around multiple runs, and can thus get tedious

RATING: 7/10