Review: NeuroVoider (Switch)

A shooter where it’s just as much fun building your robot as it is blowing up other robots.

By Andy Hoover. Posted 08/30/2018 13:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
Editor's Choice
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Fantastic customization; highly enjoyable replayability; great retro visuals and amazing soundtrack; fun core gameplay.
Poison Mushroom for...
Not as much thought put into boss fights; occasionally wonky level geometry.

If you’re looking for an indie roguelike (or rogue-lite) adventure, you’re not exactly wanting for choice, whether it be on Switch or pretty much any platform right now. However, narrowing that choice down should be a lot easier thanks to the presence of NeuroVoider, because it’s really quite good and stands out amongst the competition.

Developer Flying Oak mixed a lot of smart ideas to come up with NeuroVoider. The game is a 16-bit inspired, twin-stick shooter, roguelike featuring lots of great customization mechanics in addition to very solid core gameplay. You play as a robot fighting its way through a series of stages, collecting new parts, and battling bosses every few levels while trying not to die, because death is permanent. But the game’s structure isn’t what makes NeuroVoider worthwhile, it’s how all of its systems make this process so engaging.

First of all, there is a choice to be made as you select which type of robot to play. Dash is all about agile aggression with a special dodge ability and high speed stats. Rampage is the soldier archetype with its fairly balanced stats and ability to fire all weapons at once with extra intensity. Last is the Fortress, a large defense focused robot with plenty of health and the ability to shield itself from incoming blows. But this choice is just a foundation upon which you will customize your own personal play-style. Before you even get to tweaking your bot’s parts, you can also select a skill that grants both active and passive abilities like better loot drops or the ability to heal yourself.

Between stages, you are given an option of which randomized level to play next as you are presented with three randomly generated stages that are marked with indicators giving you an idea of their size, number of powerful enemies, and amount of potential loot. Said loot is the most significant factor. Some enemies drop new parts and weapons for your robot with powerful elite foes dropping more, better goodies though you can sometimes find item-filled boxes, as well. New gear can also be acquired during intermissions via randomized purchases made with scrap earned by dismantling unwanted items.

Loot comes in four varieties: Vision, Core, Transport, and Weapons. Vision items act as your bot’s head and eyes and focus on granting you energy. Core items are your bot’s body and grant both energy and health. Transport items act as the legs and grant bonuses to health and speed. All these items come with some additional perks that help to give even more nuance to this highly-satisfying customization system, but these options are nothing compared to the weapons. The variety of offensive options is truly impressive, ranging from fairly standard guns and swords to massive laser beams and screen clearing nukes. Furthermore, you can have two weapons equipped at once so the number of combinations you can create is effectively endless as you try to find the balance that works best for your style.

The actual gameplay is fairly simple by comparison as you need to make your way through each stage while clearing out baddies and destroying a set number of generators before you can teleport to the intermission where you can review your loot and make changes before going onto the next level. While the enemy designs don’t necessarily stand out, they too at least feature some unique weapon combination that make encounters somewhat unpredictable and challenging. In other words, you will eventually come across elite baddies that also have nukes! Given the simple but great controls, the fun combat, and worthwhile personalization, the moment to moment combat is highly engaging and flat out fun.

Unfortunately, there are a few small issues related to gameplay and design. First, sometimes you can kind of get caught on level geometry; it’s not a major distraction, but it is noticeable on occasion. The bigger problem is with the boss fights that occur every few levels because they all feel overly similar. These encounters feel a little bit more like a bullet hell game as the bosses unleash waves of small projectiles that often don’t do much individually but are hard to dodge and add up over time. Also, they all play out the same as you have to blast one area to lower a shield before having a moment to hit the enemy in its weakpoint. The mechanics don’t feel as fine-tuned for these kinds of fights and battles can feel more like a war of attrition than a test of pure skill, especially on higher difficulties. As a result, these fights often feel like roadblocks and severe difficulty spikes, but the suffering is short-lived as it once again gives you the excuse to start over again, find more loot, and play around with more weapons.

NeuroVoider’s audio and visual design are also worthy of praise. The game looks a lot like something released on the SNES, and even though the limited number of level types hampers the sense of variety, watching your nicely animated, customized war machine go around blowing stuff up is still a pleasure. The soundtrack is another area where the game is noteworthy. Countless indie titles have leaned heavily on the synth driven sounds of the 80s recently and NeuroVoider is no exception, but this is one of the most successful uses of this style I have yet heard in a video game, and a lot of those other soundtracks are also really good.

While it doesn’t necessarily revolutionize any of the genres from which it draws inspiration, NeuroVoider still manages to be an exceptionally enjoyable game. Not only did the developers create a mechanically fun game, but they added in a layer of highly enjoyable and deep customization options that is the true heart of the game; no matter what your play-style is, there are countless ways to create unique variations of it. Considering the joy of replaying the game, its issues with occasionally cheap boss fights do little to distract you. Topping this off is the game’s great sense of style created by its retro-inspired sci-fi aesthetic and sound design. This combination of factors doesn’t make NeuroVoider a particularly revolutionary title, but it does make it a fantastic example of how all the things so popular within the indie scene can be accomplished to a highly satisfying degree in a single package.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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