Neon Abyss

Read our review of the colourful and completely mental Neon Abyss on the PlayStation 4.

Rogue-likes are amongst my favourite genres of games. The massive replayability and constant surprise really interests me and keeps me playing for hours on end. The amount of time I have ploughed into these titles over the years must be staggering but I love them dearly. I adore the fact that they can be completed quite quickly and stay fresh for so long.

Neon Abyss is one of these types of games, it’s short, immensely replayable and at times, completely insane. Due to the nature of rogue-likes, the powerups and upgrades are random. This creates, at times, massively overpowered combos that lay waste to anything that even thinks about coming near you. It is these runs that really entertain me, they make you feel powerful and seldom, almost untouchable.

What are you looking at?

In Neon Abyss you play as a member of the ‘Grim Squad’ – a task force set-up by Hades himself to infiltrate the abyss and defeat the New Gods. As always in rogue-likes, the story is a mere vehicle that drives you through endless rooms, endless weapons and helpful upgrades that you must acquire to make it out the other side of the abyss and back to the safe haven of the bar.

This bar serves as your hub between your delves into the depths. You can buy persistent upgrades, change characters and if it takes your fancy, have a dance on the dancefloor. It became a bit of a ritual for me, before every game I would throw some awesome shapes before I left. It’s the small things in life that keep me entertained and Neon Abyss has quite a few of them, which I will touch on later.

Yep, throwing some means shapes before I delve into the abyss.

Each floor you visit in the abyss is procedurally generated, so you never know what will crop up. There are treasure rooms, rooms with new guns in, treasure chests, enemies, shops and truckloads more to boot. It is how you manage your various currencies, how you build your character and how you bend each floor to your will that will determine how successful each run will be.

While I sometimes found the levels a bit samey and repetitive, exploring them was rewarding. The teleportation points that litter each stage made finding all the hidden rooms and loot fun and minimized the amount of backtracking you needed to do. It was the little surprises here and there that made exploring pleasurable and sometimes, just sometimes, quite surprising.

Sometimes you encounter bizarre and brilliant mini-games to spend you cash on and hopefully complete to get upgrades.

Your main currencies are money, crystals and to an extent, keys. Money can be used mainly in shops but also on smaller things like gambling machines and mini-games. Crystals are used for the secondary ability of guns and for unlocking some doors. Keys are used for opening chests and doors. They are a lot more vital than you first realise. I have left so many doors locked and so many chests unplundered due to the lack of keys, yet due to this being a roguelike, some runs I had so many of them that I could not find enough locks to throw them at. Rogue-likes, eh? Who would have them?

The weaponry in Neon Abyss is uncannily brilliant. So, so many weapons, cats that shoot fish bones, lasers, pistols, machine guns, you name it, it’s here. When you have found a few upgrades and items they start to combo together and create beautiful carnage. I had a machine gun that also fired bombs, poison shots and picked up an upgrade where the more keys I had, the more powerful it was. It was the same run where I had loads of keys and, let me tell you, I now know how it feels to be a badass. I was unstoppable.

Taste my wrath!

Each gun also has a secondary ability, which costs a different amount of crystals to use depending on the weapon. Whether it be dropping a random amount of cash, dropping a pickup or even causing you to fly, each weapon was a joy to try out and work out how best to utilise its unique features. I even had one once that created a platform on walls wherever I fired. It was awesome for getting those hard to reach chests. What is also a fine touch is when you pick up a new weapon your upgrades transfer across, meaning nothing is lost and leaves you free to experiment with different setups throughout your run.

Along with the madcap armaments, there are numerous companions you can get by collecting eggs. Each time you collect one of these lovely random companion ovoids it tags along behind you until hatching time. After a combat encounter, they attempt to hatch. Sometimes you get something and sometimes you don’t. You get some crazy companions too, from cats wearing shades to bomb firing creatures and aliens. They also upgrade as you progress and they do all sorts of weird and wonderful things. It’s just another layer heaped on top of this crazy randomly generated cake.

A row of uncanny companions to help me and the massive gun helps too.

As with all the best rogue-likes, you get an upgrade currency during each run through the game. Each time you kill a boss an upgrade token is dropped and back at the bar, it can be used to unlock more items, rules or tweaks to your future games. I will not spoil too much but one introduced the possibility of a piano room being in future map layouts and it’s brilliant. It’s little things like this that I love, I was so happy that among all the shooting and carnage, sometimes, just sometimes, I could create beautiful music on an oversized piano or do some fishing. Absolutely mental, brilliant fun.

Graphically, Neon Abyss is very….. well it is very neon. It’s bright, flashy and full of life. It’s a stunning contrast to the other game I am playing at the moment, which is bleak, dank and very dark. (Yes, it’s the one everyone is talking about). It is a nice change to play something bombastic, shiny and very immediate. The pixel-art is great, the animations are very good and the crazy cast is well realised. The whole presentation is very pleasing, while it won’t be to everyone’s taste, I really enjoyed it.

Pew, pew, pew.

The music also adds to the whole loudness of this title, is crunchy, energetic and goes hand in hand with the graphical style. The pumping music does a great job of propelling you through each stage of each run you play. I had zero performance issues with this game, which I found very gratifying. I completed many runs through the abyss but to unlock and see everything I will need to do many more. While Neon Abyss is not the best rogue-like I have played it’s certainly enjoyable and well worth your time.

Seb Hawden

Updated: Jul 14, 2020

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