Neon Abyss (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Drew Hurley 28.08.2020

Review for Neon Abyss on Nintendo Switch

British developer Team 17 will always be synonymous with their magnum opus, Worms, but in recent years it has acted as the publisher in some really notable titles, especially on Switch, with games like Overcooked and Yoku's Island Express. Here it is publishing a game from Chinese developer Veewo Games in Neon Abyss. This is another Rogue-like to add to the mountain of similar titles already available on Switch, but its presentation and style are striking enough to catch the eye of the audience. In a neon-drenched nightclub, the cast of unlockable characters delves into the titular Neon Abyss, where procedurally generated sets of stages await, and at the conclusion to each, a target to eliminate. Death is the only way out of this radiant purgatory.

Neon Abyss has a familiar and simple enough premise. Head off into the abyss. Fight until death comes, return to the bar, and use currency to strengthen the character. Repeat. The Abyss has five different levels, each separated into a series of stages, and within the stages series of procedurally generated rooms. There is a huge catalogue of enemies to slaughter across these stages, and, in a neat little feature, it's often evolutions of what has come before; visually similar but stronger abilities - little cyclopean blobs on later levels gain wings, armour, and can fire spikey explosives. The only way to face off against the stronger creatures of the abyss is to grow stronger along the way. The expansive designs of enemies and bosses especially are great.

This is done in two ways. First off, during the run itself, there are hundreds and hundreds of equipable items that grant a wide variety of power-ups. They can give more health or shields, improving weapons power of speed, the ability to double jump or even fly! Then there are the abilities which are harder to quantify whether having it is a positive or not, like dropping bombs every time the player jumps, which can quickly lead to a self-inflicted death. Equally there is a huge range of weapons to find too. Guns that surround the player with deadly musical notes, huge beam firing rifles, grenade launchers, and the more surreal like cats that shoot fish bones.

Screenshot for Neon Abyss on Nintendo Switch

The second way is by gathering up gems from bosses at the end of each stage. These are then taken back to the bar at the edge of the abyss to spend on upgrades. These can be item packs which will unlock the ability to spawn inside the abyss, or permanent changes to the abyss to help the runs along the way in the form of special rooms that are added to the procedurally generated stages. There's a DDR-style mini-game room, a fishing room, new vendors, and devices that gamble coins for the items outlined above. There are even different characters to play as unlockable within here.

Outside of these methods of powering up, the core mechanics will be well accustomed with. There are keys to open locked doors or chests, explosives to blow up rocks and pathways to hidden rooms, coins to collect to purchase health, shields, weapons, and power-ups in shops, and, finally, there are crystals to open special doors or chests. There are some unique elements here. There's a faith system where shooting the crystals through the world can fill an "evil" meter, whilst using them correctly fills a "good" one, and filling that bar will unlock a secret room with powerful power-ups based around good or evil. There's also a system of pets that can be hatched from eggs found in the stages, and these can spawn various little creatures with bonus abilities, able to shoot at enemies, intercept projectiles, and collect items.

Screenshot for Neon Abyss on Nintendo Switch

Items are filled with pop culture references and Easter Eggs. These Easter Eggs feel unfinished or slapdash in their design. For example, there is the Ancient mask that Joseph and Dio once fought over. Does the ability grant the ability to pose like a boss, or a ghostly Star Platinum pet to spawn or to slow time? No. It gives a chance to restore health when killing enemies with bombs. There's not even any choice flavour text. Meh. If you're going to include Easter eggs like this, do it right...

At the end of each stage, a boss is waiting, each a "God." The God of Screen. The God of Fast Food. The God of Pills. These are some fast and fun boss fights. Giant floating heads looking like the Horn Head Mad Balls from the '80s; a marionette K-Pop idol that fires out musical notes; a floating TV that transforms into a wall of TVs, firing tracking bullets. Just like the standard enemies, these bosses get stronger in their later incarnations, gaining new abilities and forms, but these are nothing compared to the 'Manager' at the end of each level. Five in all and some wonderful and challenging encounters based around the Greek gods.

Screenshot for Neon Abyss on Nintendo Switch

Every run is different, other than the final boss of the series of stages. There is a bit of a limitation, where there seems a small pool of room to pull from, and the stages feel repetitive. Even with this, though, there are some runs that just feel amazing. Where the item drops and the guns just happen to complement each other perfectly, or tons of Eggs are combined with items that power-up based on the number of Eggs, tearing through enemies like a neon buzz-saw. Then there are runs that just feel punishing, and even that can add some variety. This is where another interesting mechanic comes in to play, a unique seed for the run that can be input to rerun the stage. This is perfect for friends who want to share their best runs, or even for streaming and speedrunning online. It's disappointing though that these runs don't give scores or gems to unlock new abilities.

While the presentation looks great with its crisp sprites and gorgeous designs, when things get hectic the framerate stutters, then absolutely tanks. On later levels and boss fights when there are numerous enemies, big guns are firing, and bombs are exploding, the game becomes damn near unplayable. A slideshow of failure and freezing that is awful to see in such a title in 2020. Also on the presentation front, composer Min He has produced a forgettable set of themes, hugely disappointing that this doesn't have a set of synth tracks that would fit with the aesthetic.

Screenshot for Neon Abyss on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Those who love The Binding of Isaac and Enter the Gungeon will find an awful lot to like here. The gameplay is fast and fluid, the presentation striking, and there is a huge amount to keep coming back for. There are tons of things to unlock that change up subsequent runs, unique seeds to master the most enjoyable versions of levels, and even an insanely challenging difficulty mode to unlock. The biggest issue is the small amount of rooms to pull from when generating a stage. It's not too noticeable for a few play-throughs, but for the players who will run this over and over, it really detracts from the experience.

Developer

Team17

Publisher

Team17

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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