Platforms: Switch (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, PC
If you enjoy a good roguelike, then the past seven years have probably been a great time for you. While Rogue Legacy may not have invented the genre, it was one of the first games to popularize it for modern audiences. Since its release, we’ve had great titles come along including Dead Cells, West of Dead, and now Neon Abyss. The latter doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but functionally it works incredibly well, and it includes an upgrade system that makes for all kinds of bonkers situations.
There’s no understating just how crazy Neon Abyss is. It’s an absolute blast to play. If you like roguelites — hell, even if you’ve never played a roguelite — you should play Neon Abyss posthaste.
Shoot monsters, hatch eggs, upgrade like a boss
At first glance, Neon Abyss may look like a little unassuming roguelite, and in a lot of ways it is. It’s almost like 2D twin-stick shoot ‘em up version of Dead Cells with bullet hell action taken from Enter the Gungeon. There’s some platforming gameplay, there are traps everywhere, and bosses are huge. The basic foundations here are fairly straightforward. It’s the insanity sprinkled on top of those foundations that truly helps Neon Abyss stand out. More than anything, it’s this insanity that makes it so damn fun and worthy of playing for countless hours.
You start out with a pretty basic gun. Actually, that may be putting it lightly because that starter gun kind of sucks — it’s inaccurate, it’s weak, and it has a moderate rate of fire. Eventually, you’ll either find a new gun or some upgrades. Everything is procedurally generated, so what you get changes on a round-to-round basis.
Whatever the case may be, though, you’re not going to be stuck with that gun. Maybe. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a new gun with a better rate of fire or larger bullets. If you’re really lucky, though, you’ll get some slick upgrade that does something like increase your damage output if you have a lot of coins or increase your rate of fire the more keys you’ve collected. Maybe your shots will explode on contact, making for even bigger damage. There are a lot of different upgrades like this…
… and they all stack.
That’s where things get really wild in Neon Abyss. If you find a new upgrade, you don’t have to toss your old one out — you can just add to it. This isn’t an exaggeration, either. You’ll get to a point where you’ll have, like, seven or eight (or more) upgrades equipped all at once, essentially turning you into a walking machine gun.
Then there are the eggs. Along the way, you’ll find eggs that you can pick up. These eggs eventually hatch, and they’ll either do nothing or give you a little pet. These pets have different abilities like blocking damage, shooting projectiles of their own, picking up hard-to-reach coins, and freezing enemies. These little guys stack, too! You’ll go from having a long line of eggs floating behind you like Yoshi to having pets doing all kinds of things for you. It’s great!
None of this necessarily makes Neon Abyss too easy as you’ll soon find out, because almost every time you enter a new room, you’ll be outnumbered by baddies with different abilities. Some shoot projectiles, others toss explosives, and others just charge at you. Yeah, you might have a bunch of cool upgrades and pets to give you a nice boost, but you still need to play strategically to get around incoming fire and avoid spike traps.
Roguelites live and die by their gameplay loop, and Neon Abyss features an incredibly addictive gameplay loop. This game is just fun to play, and the reason for that is because of how enjoyable it is to find new guns, upgrades, and pets. Yes, the actual progression is awesome, but the stacking upgrades and pets are what truly make this experience stand out.
Speaking of progression, Neon Abyss takes cues from other roguelites and can be punishing but isn’t too brutal. There are a handful of chapters, each with a few levels to complete. If you die, you start from the beginning of the current chapter you’re on. So if you’ve beaten a final boss in one chapter, and then you get destroyed in a subsequent chapter, you won’t have to start from the very beginning of the game but rather the current chapter you’re on.
A neon bullet hell wonderland
True to its name, Neon Abyss is filled with vibrant fluorescent colors. This is seen in the backgrounds, level designs, and all the bullets you’re dodging. The game often gives off Blade Runner vibes thanks to its dystopian backdrop, but all the creepy smiley face tags with X eyes are reminiscent of something like The Strangers: Prey At Night or The Purge. There’s a weirdness to the game’s world that’s both intriguing and artful.
The sound design in Neon Abyss is mostly reliant on electronic and techno themes. If you’re not into that sort of stuff, you probably won’t dig the soundtrack. None of the tunes are all that catchy or memorable anyway, and they can actually border on generic at times. It’s kind of a bummer because the fast-paced action could’ve been complemented nicely with some cool beats.
Veewo Games’ procedurally generated roguelite shoot ‘em up succeeds in delivering an addictive and challenging experience that’s bright and explosive. Even if you’ve been playing a lot of roguelites lately, the way Neon Abyss presents its gameplay and outrageous upgrade systems makes it a completely enticing and pretty unique experience.