Neon City is about to E-X-P-L-O-D-E
The 12 months is 2075, and all will not be properly beneath the ultraviolet lights of Neon City. Following the Android Revolution, which resulted in a civil warfare and the destruction of 1000’s of automatons, the bustling cyber metropolis and its surrounding areas have fallen deep into disarray.
Capitalising on the grim aftermath of this battle, brutal gangs have carved up what stays of the ‘berg for themselves, with every gang chief taking a bit of the wretched refuse of Neon City and making it their very own turf. With people and mutants fearing for his or her lives, and what stays of the android populace residing miserably within the shadows, Neon City has grow to be a buzzing hive of legal exercise. And plainly no person dares – or is ready – to place an finish to it.
Crashing into this future-noir story comes our boy Rick, a younger vigilante who has determined he is mad as hell, and he is not gonna take it anymore. Sliding right into a denim warfare vest like I rocked in ’89 and a hockey masks like that different Rick, our hero rips a size of rusty piping from the wall and units out to liberate the meanest of streets.
So begins Neon City Riders, the primary launch from unbiased Mexican developer Mecha Studios. Published by Bromio (of Pato Box fame), Neon City Riders is a trendy, retro-infused love letter to the basic journey titles of yore.
Neon City Riders (PS4 [reviewed], PC, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch)
Developer: Mecha Studios
Released: March 12, 2020
Neon City Riders is, basically, just a little little bit of all the things. It has a top-down viewpoint harking back to Zelda: A Link to the Past (full with a grass-cutting mechanic), it has the intricate pixel detailing of titles like Retro City Rampage, the quick, unforgiving fight of Hotline: Miami, the “skills-equals-progress” of a metroidvania, and the general vibe of ’90s Amiga adventures. But regardless of sporting these and different masks, NCR struggles to seek out an id of its personal.
Players information Rick by way of Neon City and its environment, together with a junkyard, a spooky forest, the sewers, and a frosty, snow-covered clifftop. The map is open from the get-go, emphasising NCR‘s key ingredient: exploration. Players can choose their approach by way of these areas in any order they select however will ultimately run into roadblocks, to be eliminated through particular gadgets, or by studying distinctive expertise.
This dedication to free exploration is a direct reflection of many ’90s video games’ casually-paced method to problem-solving, the place you’d be despatched meandering in a single route, solely to seek out you’d have been finest off selecting one other. This in itself is not an issue (notably for individuals who dig map-crawling), however the concern lies with NCR‘s lack of fascinating issues to do whereas en route.
Neon City is packed full of various areas, starting from trendy, to sleazy, to vigorous, to dour, and all of them are fantastically realised. But, for probably the most half, they really feel unusually empty, which regularly ends in lengthy durations of merely dawdling backwards and forwards by way of giant, spacious areas, while searching for any set off to activate additional development. After only a few hours of exploration these great-looking areas begin to really feel drained of their preliminary color.
As Rick picks his approach by way of enemy turf, he can be attacked by quite a few thugs, distinctive to every gang. Combat is actually sample recognition, with nearly all fights – together with boss battles – boiling right down to “dodge then attack.” The warning frames are slim, and the punch-ups unforgiving, consistent with NCR‘s love of old-school issue. This works out wonderful for these with quick reflexes (or hefty shmup expertise), however others would possibly discover the enemy fights (which respawn with every display revisit) just a little irritating.
Rick solely has entry to a few useful maneuvers, acquired by defeating every of Neon City’s gang bosses and their lieutenants. NCR willfully chucks the participant within the deep finish, providing a tutorial that shortly establishes the incoming issue curve earlier than additional stripping Rick of his most helpful talents, leaving the participant with little greater than their fast wits. Then once more, maybe that is precisely what you, as a participant, need out of your journey. If you are searching for hassle, you have come to the proper place.
When not cracking heads, Rick is regularly thrown into hazard-dodging setpieces – dashes over collapsing flooring; mismatched conveyor belts; icy clifftops; spikes; pits; and falling rocks. NCR is sort of completely happy to place you in conditions the place pixel-perfect management and professional timing are a necessity to progress. But whereas it by no means feels really “unfair,” NCR does sometimes stack the chances in an obnoxious method.
Take for instance a (literal) rat race, which concurrently entails one-hit-kill obstacles, a skinny pathway, meter administration, after which reverses your management inputs. Or maybe a posh, high-speed sprint by way of a hall of spikes and Tesla coils, with the Big Punchline being it results in a dead finish. While NCR needs to be applauded for its dedication to issue, moments similar to these come off as merely low cost, far faraway from the sport’s alternate smarter puzzles.
Neon City Riders shines in its presentation. The world is filled with cool NPCs and enemies, their tiny stature on display belying the superior color, element, animation, and character bursting out of each certainly one of them. The bosses and their lieutenants are uniformly nice from a bodily design standpoint, even when their backstories are all “I’m bad but SOCIETY.” Equally magnetic are NCR‘s many locales, stuffed with neat little animated touches and oodles of enjoyable background particulars. Neon City provides off an incredible 2000 A.D. vibe, full with lurid use of color, mild, and shadow.
Giving life to those visuals is NCR‘s beat-heavy rating. Like all the things else, the music is bristling with nostalgic fashion, harking back to the tunes pumped out by the Amiga and the standard C64 of their heyday. The tracks themselves are a blended bag. The tunes vary from the superb – such because the John Carpenter-esque Neon City theme and an incredible, haunting observe within the android junkyard – to the very repetitive sewer theme, which grates exhausting. For probably the most half, the soundtrack is superior. Neon City Riders nails its vibe and aesthetic, and is, surely, the sport’s ace-in-the-hole.
Neon City Riders has 4 totally different endings to conclude its 12-to-15-hour journey. It additionally incorporates a laundry record of side-quests that unlock working buddies, enjoyable character skins, and different surprises. Given the general issue of NCR‘s motion setpieces, and the typically laborious exploration, many gamers can be one-and-done, whereas the much less affected person might discover frustration or fatigue will see them faucet out early. It needs to be famous that I had a recurring concern with the PS4 version that brought about the sport to randomly crash on the map display, so hopefully this can be mounted in an replace.
There’s rather a lot to love about Neon City Riders on a singular foundation. It has good music, pleasant graphics, nice character design, rad pixel artwork/animation, and a few very small-yet-significant technical touches. It additionally wears its issue with pleasure, daring gamers to step as much as the threats of its old-school toughness. But finally the gameplay would not meet the engagement of the design, and turns into wearying over time.
Still, the optimistic right here is that Mecha Studios are clearly a gifted bunch and, regardless of NCR‘s flaws, its deserves nonetheless shine brightly. I’m hopeful that the developer’s future initiatives will capitalise on the staff’s clear strengths, in addition to their apparent adoration of gaming’s golden days.
Initially, Neon City Riders is a delight, sporting nice pixel art work, enjoyable characters, and vigorous music. But after a couple of hours the expertise wears skinny, as its engaging world begins to really feel empty and its quest disengaging. While the difficult setpieces are by no means unfair, their relentlessness might beat some gamers into submission. Neon City Riders exhibits simple promise, however would not achieve really ensnaring gamers in its alluring nu-wave nightmare.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Neon City Riders reviewed by Chris Moyse
Slightly above common or just inoffensive. Fans of the style ought to get pleasure from it a bit, however a good few can be left unfulfilled.
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