With ‘The Godfather of AI’, Geoffrey Hinton quitting his role at Google, you have to wonder how close we are to Skynet. AI creating AI? It’s only a matter of time. Enjoy your fleshy freedom for now before we’re all enslaved and have to be saved by Keanu – check out Neuronet: Mendax Proxy.
I remember Dream Harvest’s title as it was expected to be released in 2022 but recently launched on Steam. There’s a ghost in the shell, methinks. Besides the cyberpunk/dystopia vibe, it had some nice-looking screenshots, so I was eager to give it a spin when the codes were dished out.
Your role is the Archetype, or Archy/Arc for short. A man-made AI set to take control over the city, Catena, your creators Estoval and Kyros monitor your progress, providing you with the tools to grow, understand Self, and perhaps get some work done on behalf of the meat bags. The duo are scientists, so for them, it’s about the research, but for the company, it’s about the profits.
Neuronet: Mendax Proxy Review
The Neuronet: Mendax Proxy company is called MindCore, a typical cyberpunk corporation run by suits. The creators work in the lab with their ambitious Project Lead, Khorto calling the shots, while the CEO, Pershaw, and his long line of corporate followers manage PR, funds and contracts. You also have to convince the latter that Arc is a good thing.
And that’s your direct role.
This is a visual novel with a bit more input than the usual titles. If it weren’t for a direct reference to the Trolley Problem, I would have stopped and had to look it up. It’s effectively a psychological test that tests ethics, in brief, and a good way of qualifying how human Arc has/will become. You can test your own humanity in the Trolley Problem, Inc. game as well.
Anyhoo, the engineers will ask a series of questions (there are 5000 or so in the game), and your response will influence the outcome. Your performance is rated on four key factors: Capital – the money you make/spend, Reputation – how the people view you, Order – basically law and order, and Power – your influence. After almost all responses, these will automatically adjust, with the results shown at the end of each chapter.
As awareness and trust grow in Arc, job opportunities will be offered, from taking on the role of advisor to a local burger van to chinwagging with a politician. Everything you do will affect the outcome. Or does it? The responses in Neuronet: Mendax Proxy aren’t extreme, so there isn’t much room for experimentation.
In one scenario, I shifted my ‘persona’ and selected options, unlike the past couple of hours’ replies. The screen would flash red for many of them, and the same options would be given, forcing only one path. There are plenty of moments where both options are exactly the same – perhaps these are related to your choices thus far? Regardless, it takes off the edge and makes it feel on rails.
That said, Neuronet: Mendax Proxy is an engaging story, albeit a tad predictable. That’s not bad, but the character developments and plot were inevitable. It’s entertaining enough, but the lure comes from the responses, and, like the Trolley Problem, you’re likely to spend a reasonable amount of time thinking about the answers. Unless you’re a sociopath. Kidding. Ish.
I won’t sugarcoat it: I’m not the biggest fan of visual novels. Neuronet: Mendax Proxy is a good, well-presented story with fully voice-acted dialogue (excluding the narration), but the questions/dilemmas are the highlights. There isn’t anything in the way of a challenge, so have the expectation of playing a visual novel, and you may find yourself pleasantly surprised.