Neurovoider (Xbox One Review)

You’d think that with the amount of roguelike titles hitting digital marketplaces that the the industry itself would thrive or fall based on them. There are so many that it can be hard to count–this is not to say they’re unwelcome. By and large, roguelikes are a dubious case of uncertainty or longevity: they could be everlasting or fizzle out in an instant; they could be complicated or overly simple; or they could lack depth or, in-fact, dig too deep. It’s these issues that make us anxious and Neurovoider is that picture of ambivalence brought to life.

In Neurovoider, you play as one of the few last humans in a world ruled by machines–well, as human as you can be. The only organ that matters, your brain, is all that remains and it’s your mission to eradicate this mechanical menace at all costs. You’re given a choice of three automatons each with their own benefits: speed, firepower or durability. You set forth, strafing your way through as series of largely populated stages with a mixture of palette-swapped surfaces and unthreatening foes. It then ultimately climaxes with several unimaginative boss fights that leave your skills at the door and have you begging for a stroke of luck.

As previously mentioned, you’re free to choose whichever robot you so desire. The Dash class offers speed over firepower and defense, and comes with a built-in dodge function that gives the player a few frames of invincibility if used correctly. The Rampage class is nothing special: its defining feature is a third gun mounted to its shoulder, allowing for more firepower in combat. Lastly, the Fortress is as it sounds: a walking tank. There’s plenty of health to go around and it can deploy a bubble shield to protect itself, sacrificing mobility in the process.

You’re tripod of trepidation would not be complete, however, without one of the many ‘Bios’ skills. These auxiliary perks can heal you, teleport you, slow time around you and sometimes make the grind that much harder.

And it would be hard to choose which of these perks is the right one; the best, as you’d say, to succeed. There were plenty of times throughout my runs that I’d wished I’d opted for another skill, their effectiveness waxing and waning throughout the course of the stage. This constant struggle within my indecisive mind slowly made me realise that Neurovoider has created an equilibrium for its many perks–it ensures none overshadow the others. But that equilibrium ends here.

Neurovoider has its ups and its downs. Firstly,the controls for moving, shooting, dodging and the like are all extremely fluid, more so than any other roguelike I’ve played.You can glide through stages with ease, not worrying about sticky controls and sluggish maneuvering. Enemies aren’t all that threatening–even the bigger and badder ‘Elites’ don’t pose much of a threat as most of the time your firepower easily overwhelms them. All of these elements combined fool me into a mindset of overconfidence and self-perceived invulnerability. But all of that comes crashing down before my eyes in Neurovoider’s boss arenas.

Neurovoider’s bosses have some of the most lacklustre and overly-aggressive designs I have ever encountered. The ‘bosses’ don’t differentiate themselves all that well from one another–they all resemble a moving wall with cannons that hurl a plethora of bullets, rockets, grenades (not to mention the kitchen sink) at you in all its bullet hell madness. Not only do you have to contend with this onslaught of gratuitous firepower, but there are a continuous swarm of lowly enemies that spawn in the cramped and claustrophobic arenas with you; some go as far to spawn elites along with them.

And it’s this dichotomy of difficulty that gets me down. On one hand, you have the relatively easy stages in between that feel like a walk in the park–well, the first three quarters of the game at least. Then you get hit with an obnoxiously difficult boss stage that, even with a fully maximised class, is still insanely hard to overcome. It is so nail-bitingly frustrating that I ask myself what I did wrong to fail so badly–questioning my every decision upto that point.

Between stages you get to customise and craft parts for your mechanoid: from additions to its Core that offers up a health boost and ammunition regen to its weaponry, which can provide more firepower. Collecting scrap parts from fallen robots will net you enough points to craft your own in hopes of getting those legendary ‘Glitched’ items that boost your own stats significantly. There are more than enough tools to suit your own prefered playstyle and you’re essentially just playing the numbers game until you’re beefy enough to move on; a sum of all your parts.

And even then I still find myself at odds with desire to play on. Neurovoider boasts its prowess in some areas, but so noticably lacks in many intergrals of its overall design. On the plus side, the controls are solid and incredibly simple, never hindering the players ability to play. However, it is this overture of simplicity that indeed holds it back.


Neurovodier’s stages are,  again,  simple and unrestricted–you’re able to breeze through them with very little restraint until a boss stage occurs. These stages force the player to fight a literal difficulty wall/barrier; one that if passed, would be the end to any means of the gamer needing to play through Neurovoider again. Even though it is a roguelike, it’s a roguelike that offers little reward and no replay value unless you want to show off to your friends with a high score.

Neurovoider has its high points that are leveled out by its faults. It’s a fairly solid trial of perseverance with little reward other than its own players self accomplishments within. Its bite sized levels will keep you coming back for more, but its sudden difficulty barriers will send you packing.

Neurovoider

Neurovoider
7

Pros

  • Fuild Controls.
  • Satisfying bite sized stages.

Cons

  • Unimaginative boss desgin
  • Sudden difficulty spikes

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