You can’t please everyone, but Team17’s latest title Neon Abyss sure as hell goes for it.
With run n’ gun elements, platforming, RPG-like upgrades and a retro aesthetic that will have you reaching for your Reebok Pumps, this game is absolutely wicked.
I also like neon.
The most important thing to take away is this will be a balanced opinion based on the standalone title and not led by fanboy traits.
Neon Abyss Review
Today’s document is based on the PS4 version of the title, and boy is it pretty.
First of all: the visuals. They’re a pixel art style that’s super pretty with some nuanced animations from the flick of a character’s clothing through to their own little dance moves in the lobby and later mini-game.
Neon Abyss is a dungeon crawler, and therefore, a rogue-like, as deemed by developers Veewo Games. Unlike most titles where death means losing everything and restarting with nothing, this title is a throwback to 16-bit classics such as Chaos Engine where you input a code to access a myriad of custom items you unlocked in the last run.
You play a number of characters, all on the path to destroy five gods with the help of Hades, the bartender. Making a pack with the caretaker of the Underworld, you run through a series of 2D platform-style rooms, collecting a wealth of loot, battling sub-bosses until you defeat the god of each respective area.
Running through the tutorial, I immediately disliked the button configuration. Using the right stick for aiming was absolutely fine, but I didn’t like using L2 to jump. By the time I got accustomed to it, I had stumbled upon a feature from the menu screen where you can remap the layout, but by then, I was used to it.
You Awake In A Bar…
Each time you die, you return to the underworld bar, the Neon Abyss of the title. With Hades as a barkeep, you can configure a few options from here such as change the difficulty, upgrade your skills, <ahem> dance, input codes from a previous run and pray to a statue (that comes with time).
There are other features too such as character selection, but we can cross that path later, should we come to it.
Let’s go straight to gameplay. The weapons include laser-sighted death rays, rocket launchers and numerous heat-seeking variants, but it doesn’t stop there. The accessories are equally good with multiple buffs that increase damage, health drops and ever a set of Pegasus wings to get around in class.
It might be worth mentioning the eggs in the game too. Like most of the items in Neon Abyss, you collect random eggs that hover around with you and through wanton destruction, they hatch into a variety of mini-helpers, attacking assailants, or a little more mischievous and pinching your loot.
My favourite has to be the flame baby that torches anything that attacks you. Keep up the kills, and they level up. Unfortunately, though, some are duds, and often they will hatch with nothing in it.
The worst Kinder Egg ever.
On top of the weapons, accessories and power-ups that can be activated with R2, you also have grenades that blow up secret paths, chests and enemies. Collect coins to buy new items from the merchants located on each stage, keys to also unlock chests and doors, plus pick up a variety of crystals too.
These crystals weren’t really used to their best advantage as you essentially use them to unlock paths to the merchants or open the odd purple chest. They’re in abundance and after the first half dozen or so runs, I was never looking for them as always had enough.
Who’s Got The Popcorn?
Each area in Neon Abyss is made up of stages with a mini-boss to defeat. The majority of them are relatively easy to get past, but not a complete walk in the park.
Whenever you defeat them, you are rewarded with yellow crystals to spend on upgrades with Hades. That rhymes.
The skill tree has three paths to follow, and if you want to unlock them all, expect to grind some levels. It’s not that time-consuming, however, and I really enjoyed unlocking the bonuses such as improved weapons and new characters.
Once I unlocked the popcorn buff, it was all plain sailing. Mostly. No matter what gun I used, each consecutive bullet would explode, causing massive damage and easy run.
My only complaint was my accuracy; often firing within close proximity of my face and taking off a good amount of health. In the end, that’s what killed me. Unfazed, I went back to do the run once more with my popcorn ‘God mode’ but no longer had it.
When you unlock an item in the skill tree, you get a free trial in your next run, but once you die, it’s randomly generated like all the other items, so the chances are limited to get it again.
Would Sir Care For The Desserts Menu?
The repeat plays of each run were one of the biggest hooks for me, and despite the amount of time I was devoting, I wasn’t really making much progress. Instead, I was carefully hoarding all my options so I could go in as a one-person army.
Though I got used to the controls at a reasonable speed, I will say that aiming with the right stick wasn’t always on par. I’ll be quick to raise my hand when at fault, but I think there were quite a number of times where it wasn’t as accurate as I had hoped.
But to be fair, I’ve really been enjoying Neon Abyss. As I briefly reflect in a poignant moment of staring at non-existing clouds, I don’t recall getting frustrated with this game once. Usually, when I play rogue-lites, I get irritable when I lose all my gear.
I’ve never seen such variety in a recent game when it comes to unlockables. Not only are there a seemingly infinite amount of weapons to find, but the power-ups and pets you adopt through hatchings are also endless too – each run introducing a new toy to play with.