Title: Neon Chrome
Available On: Steam, Nintendo eShop
Developer: 10tons Ltd.
Publisher: 10tons Ltd.
Genre: Dual-Stick Shooter
Official Site: http://www.neonchromegame.com/
Release Date: October 12, 2017
Where to Buy: Steam, Nintendo eShop
Neon Chrome is a shooter that doesn’t get the shooting right.
From the outset, aiming in Neon Chrome is very awkward, and when combined with a variety of uninspired weaponry, it’s a game that asks players to have fun fighting enemies, while failing at the most basic aspects of creating a dual-stick shooter that feels satisfying to play. There are a handful of interesting ideas here, but with such critical flaws in the moment-to-moment gameplay, they’re not enough to make Neon Chrome a game that’s worth your time.
The story follows an attempt to overthrow the rule of an evil overseer. You’ll be fighting your way through hordes of enemy guards and killer robots, avoiding traps, plundering chests for credits, and obtaining new upgrades as you progress through the world. There are actually several protagonists of Neon Chrome, as each death means you’ll be taking control of someone else entirely. This means that each death brings the opportunity to change classes, each of which has some unique weapon or ability. If you’re not enjoying the perks of a set class, then you’re encouraged to try something new with your next life. Hackers have a security drone that are great for dealing with shielded guards and will be able to access hacker-specific crates. More assault-heavy classes will come with the addition of missiles for taking down tougher foes.
This system means that all collected upgrades are lost upon death, adding tension to each level. Dying not only resets you to the last checkpoint floor but erases the exact set of collected upgrades and weapons that you may have become accustomed to. Combine this with randomly generated levels and you get an experience that’s technically different for every player. I say “technically” because no matter how these levels are generated, they’re all the same boring steel buildings with few exceptions. Random level generation was a clear attempt to keep the player engaged even as they complete what are essentially the same levels over and over. I would sacrifice the very moderate novelty of randomly generated levels for better overall level design, since with levels that all look very similar anyway; this novelty is fleeting.
Back at the central hub, you can spend the in-game currency on permanent upgrades each time, but upgrading in this way never really seemed to make much of a difference. I could pump up my attack power every single time I got the chance, but it never seemed to have a big enough impact to actually make a difference. It seems that these permanent upgrades had to be balanced so that no player would become too overpowered by upgrading certain stats in addition to finding in-level upgrades that boosted these stats even more. With randomly generated levels and loot, designers could never be sure at what point a player had access to certain upgrades, so it feels like permanent increases had to be substantially nerfed to account for this.
Gameplay essentially cycles around getting as far as you can with a single life while collecting cybernetics, clearing checkpoints, using credits to unlock permanent upgrades after you die, and trying again with better stats. This cycle wears out its welcome in the first half hour, thanks to one key problem. Combat isn’t fun.
Neon Chrome has terrible aiming controls, which in a shooter is a critical flaw. Great dual-stick shooters are reliant on deft movement and a reliable aiming system to allow for proper dodging of enemy attacks and positioning for a counterattacking. The aiming sensitivity in Neon Chrome is way too high, and the game lacks any option to adjust this in the menu. Even firing at a stationary guard can be an awkward process. The fact that dual-stick shooters are best played in motion, the shooting controls of Neon Chrome were the biggest mark against it.
The best way to play this game is with a shotgun. Not only is a level of challenge added in closing the gap between enemies while dodging enemy attacks, but the shotgun requires little accuracy, and delivers you from having to deal with these awful controls. Neon Chrome was originally a PC release, and it shows. The aiming was clearly meant for a mouse and keyboard, and when ported to the Switch, the Joycon control sticks were the only real option. Again, this could have been rectified with sensitivity options in the menu, but the question I can’t get past is why port it at all?
Supposing the aiming system received a major overhaul, Neon Chrome would still fall short. Weapons are largely machine guns, SMG’s, and shotguns, and little is done with the futuristic setting to amp up the creativity in these offensive options. There’s not really any reason for there to be many weapon iterations either. Some are energy type, some are ballistic, but again neither ever seemed to make much of a difference. Look at the numbers, pick the higher number, and start mowing down guards again.
You’ve likely noticed by now that graphically speaking, Neon Chrome looks very fuzzy. It feels to me that with futuristic neon landscape an attempt was made to create an atmosphere that would more effectively be accentuated with vibrant visuals and picture that’s a little more crisp. On top of that the game was constantly dropping frames, and nothing that was ever happening on screen looked to be that graphically demanding.
So in a nutshell, Neon Chrome isn’t nice to look at it, and it’s not fun to play. I’m a sucker for robots and lasers, and Neon Chrome was still unable to keep my attention. It’s a shooter with poor shooting controls. It’s future setting is reliant on atmosphere that the graphics system couldn’t keep up with. Fans of the dual stick shooter have no reason not to play a better one, because the minor things that Neon Chrome got right did not make up for a supremely lackluster game.
Verdict: Terrible controls and uninventive weaponry are the major issues with Neon Chrome, and since shooting is most of what you do, they become game breaking issues. The death and rebirth system allowing new class choices each time is an interesting idea, but no matter how much you like the class you play as, you’ll be using the same controls regardless. Despite it’s best efforts, Neon Chrome is just a major letdown.
- Interesting Death/Rebirth System
- Shotgun Play Can Be Engaging
- Synth Soundtrack Was Good
- Terrible Aiming System
- Uninspired Weapons
- Weak Upgrades
- No Level Variety