Neon Chrome is a game coming out on Steam from developer 10tons Ltd. It is their fourth title on the platform and it focuses around shooting in a top down perspective. The game will be available on Steam on 28th April and can be found by following the link.
Neon Chrome doesn’t lend itself too much to a story. Once you begin a new game you are told about a company called “Neon Corps”. According to the narration, the crown jewel of Neon Corps is something called “Neon Chrome”. The narrator, who remains nameless, then tells you over 1,000,000 people call “Neon Chrome” home, a home built on trust. Trust is a big issue in Neon Chrome. Unfortunately for you, your trust score is flagged up as red and you are marked for removal. Thus begins the game. You must fight your way out of Neon Chrome or die trying.
Controls for this game do not differ much from other top-down games. As expected, the player uses WASD to move their character around the screen. The mouse is used to aim your gun, fire it and for you to activate your special ability. Again, as expected, left click to fire and right click to activate the characters ability. The player then uses “e” to interact or use and “r” to reload with the space bar being left open for melee. These controls are really good for anyone who is new to the genre of game but it especially helpful to people who are long time players of top down games as they are all located in the same vicinity on the keyboard. A gamepad can be used also in case some players do not like using the keyboard.
The soundtrack to Neon Chrome is phenomenal. In true neon style, 10tons Ltd give their game a real 80’s vibe with many techno hits that fit the games play style so well. the soundtrack is similar to that of FarCry 3’s DLC Blood Dragon and fits as well as that. Each techno hit will increase in tempo either when the action becomes more an more chaotic or as you progress further and further through the floor that you are on. I am not 100% sure how many tracks there are as you are not able to purchase a soundtrack from anywhere (which I would have as the songs are that good) but everytime I began a new floor or a new life, the song would be different. Then there are the sounds that would naturally happen throughout each floor. These are things like gun sounds, enemy sounds and ambient sounds. The gun sounds seem quite generic to be brutally honest, which disappointed me slightly. A shotgun sounds like a shotgun would and a machine gun sounds like a machine gun should. Although this is how it should be, with the amount of flare that 10tons Ltd have put into the design of the game and the design of the soundtrack, I was hoping for something a bit more satisfying. Although in all my time playing the game, I wasn’t able to find one of the laser guns or any of the ultra rare guns, I hope they sound better than the regular guns do. As for enemy sounds, some of them sound fantastic…some sound generic. However, I totally forgive this as there is so much enemy variety and some really interesting things you have to fight for them to make each enemy make an individual sound. For example, the regular foot soldiers sound so boring but when you’re fighting things like Hovertank or Spiderbot, their sounds are amazing! Level sounds are pretty good too, however you do not really hear much of these as they are always being overpowered by the gun sounds and enemy sounds
Neon Chrome is a game that is focused from the top down. This means that the graphics wont be the main concern. Many games have used this style of games and put a lot of effort into the games aesthetic look (like Hotline Miami) but Neon Chrome is a game that does not need this. Although the character models do look like something from the PlayStation 1 era and the enemies can sometimes be hard to identify, they still somehow work well. What I mean by this is that the game is so fast paced and so action packed that you aren’t necessarily always concerning yourself with the look of the game, it is more to do with where the next bullet is coming from or the player thinking “how can I kill that guy without dying”. Similarly, the ingame graphics might not be top notch, but you can tell 10tons Ltd have put so much effort into the HUD and menus. The loading screen and menu screen have fully rendered pictures of the Overseer and a cyber mercenary, just like the loading screen shows a full map of your floor and your progress. The HUD is also very clean, meaning you can compare weapon stats quickly and with ease (shown below). However, as said before, the simplistic graphics can be overlooked as the game is so fast and so fun to play.
Randomness is a big part of the gameplay for Neon Chrome. As mentioned earlier, this game works on a similar premise to The Binding of Isaac, meaning no two route are the same. The community has coined the term “Roguelike” as each path is different. This does not change for Neon Chrome. Each time you begin a new life the floor that you play on will not be the same as the last. This is what gives Neon Chrome such potential to be played and played again. Each floor contains 30 levels and, every 5 levels, you will have to fight a boss. Once you beat level 29 , you will ascend to level 30 where you will do battle against the head of Neon Chrome – “Overseer 1.0” (the 1.0 will increase every time you beat it). This is just one of the many bosses you will encounter along the way. For example, the screenshot below shows one of the bosses that I came up against on one of my runs toward Overseer. It is known as Shelob 75A1 and it is quite terrifying. The boss will continue to chase you around the level and shoot laser beams in circles in order to try to catch you out.
Although you might think this fight looks easy, and you might suggest hiding behind a wall until Shelob has to reload, this is where another important gameplay tactic of Neon Chrome come into play. The thinner walls in the game are actually destructible. This means that technically you don’t have to use the doors, you can just blast your way through them. However, you do still have to find the keys for the doors with certain colours on them as those walls are not destructible. Another major aspect that makes Neon Chrome so fun to replay is the amount of characters that are featured in the game and the mass amounts of upgrades that you can give to these characters to make them better, both on your journey up to the overseer. Firstly, lets talk about a few of the characters. There are so many characters that you can play as in this game that I’m only going to talk about a few and let you discover the rest when you pick up the game. Each character starts with a different gun and a different ability, you’ll understand what this means once you read on. The first person you get the choice of playing as is someone called the Cyber Psycho. The Cyber Psycho starts with your average SMG but his ability is that he is able to hold 4 augments and not 3. Augments are upgrades in game that change the way your character works during that one run. In order to obtain these, you have to find small upgrade pods throughout the level (shown below).
The average character can hold 3 of these augments before they have to uninstall them to equip new ones but the Cyber Psycho can hold 4 minimum. Another character is called the Hacker and has ability to access purple doors and chests that other characters will not be able to and you wont have to do anything extra to earn this skill. The chests simply contain ammo and cash for passive upgrades, which we will discuss later. Finally (for this quick run down), there is a character called Techie who is completely friendly for new players. This character comes equipped with a combat shield and a small drone that will follow them around and help dispatch enemies. Now, the character is not the only thing that you can upgrade, the guns can also be made more powerful once you come across certain machines that will increase their power, reload speed or accuracy. One thing that I found is that this tends to happen on floor 4, just before you go into your first boss fight. I think this is really good as this allows newer players to get the hang of this new system. However, all of the augments and gun upgrades that you get on one run do not carry over into the next run. This is where the passive upgrades come in. As shown below, once you return to the hub room after your first run, you will be able to see this.
This is where the player can come to upgrade passive abilities such as health, damage, luck, energy and slots (these slots are for augments). They are bought with the cash that is earned as you play through the levels. These are the type of upgrades that will carry over through your different characters. That means that if you do a run as a Techie then come back here and upgrade your health, the health on the Cyber Psycho will also increase. There are also weapons, enhancements and abilities that can be bought in the room above this to guarantee them use on your next run. I like this system in this game so much. I like it because, even if you get to floor 19 and have put so much work into upgrading your character, even though you die, you can come back here and still feel as though you have earned something by completing that particular run or even by dying. It’s a system that lends itself to the phrase “Passive Progression”. The game also comes with 14 achievements and local co-op.
Overall, Neon Chrome is a fantastic little indie game and deserves all the praise it can get. There is something that resonates with me when I play rouge-like shooters, I’m not too sure what it is. However, when I played Neon Chrome, the game didn’t just resonate with me, it sang a harmony with my heart. The way that the movement works, the way the game looks and the whole 80’s vibe I got from the game just made me instantly fall in love with it. I loved FarCry 3 Blood Dragon but I think Neon Chrome took the best bits from the game (like the graphics and the music) and combined them all together with a bit more seriousness into a game that I can thoroughly enjoy. I’m also not ashamed to say that I have sunk many, many hours into this game and I seriously recommend that you do too.