NeuroVoider (Switch) Review
Dash is my adorable little robot baby and I love him. He’s cute and huggable. He’s also an unstoppable killing machine. I love him for both of these qualities. Dash is one of three robot types in NeuroVoider. I love all of my robot children, but I love Dash the most (please don’t tell Rampage and Fortress). For the past week or so, I’ve been accompanying Dash on his journey, protecting him from the big evil robots that want to hurt him. I have done an extremely bad job of this.
NeuroVoider is a twin-stick shooter roguelike game in the vein of Nuclear Throne or Binding of Isaac. That means you’re going to die often, but death is part of the game. Death is how you learn, it’s how you get stronger. It’s a tried and true format, and while NeuroVoider might not do anything particularly new or groundbreaking in this genre, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad game. Oh no. NeuroVoider is, as far as I’m concerned, the epitome of the roguelike genre. It ticks all the right boxes and delivers an excellent experience for newcomers and veterans alike.
In NeuroVoider, you take control of a very resilient brain with the ability to commandeer a robot and smash up other robots. Your robots (and other robots, but we’ll get to that later), are made up of six components: skill, vision, core, transport, left gun and right gun. Skills are active or passive abilities that you select at the beginning of the run and keep throughout. There’s a wide variety of skills, from active skills like restoring health or teleporting away in danger, to passive skills like making all weapon drops melee or increasing damage output at the expense of lower HP, and all of them are useful in certain situations. There’s a lot of tactical synergy between skills and weapons, so it’s important to pick the skill that suits how you want to play. Each class also has an additional skill that is set in stone; Dash lets you, well, dash, Rampage lets you fire all of your weapons at once at reduced cost and more damage, and Fortress lets you erect an energy shield, but disables movement and attacking.
In terms of other components, they all tend to influence your stats in one way or another. Vision components influence how often you can use your skills, core components influence your HP and EP (energy points, used for all types of attacking and skills), and transport components influence how fast you move and how quickly your EP refills when depleted. There are various levels of rarity in components, each with an associated colour, and some of the higher tier components can offer extra perks, so it’s always exciting to pick up a piece of rare gear in the field and rush through the level to find out what you got.
The weapon components are a little more complex. There is a wide range of weapon types, from basic blasters and shotguns to flamethrowers and giant laser hammers, and you can have two weapons equipped at once. The giant laser hammers fit into the melee category, which I used a lot. There’s even a skill that makes all the weapons you pick up melee weapons. There is a small problem though: melee weapons are not particularly useful. See, most of your enemies will use guns, which makes it difficult to get close to them and melee without taking damage. The enemies that don’t use guns and instead use melee weapons are generally faster than you, meaning they’ll hit you before you hit them. I’ve found some success in dashing in, swinging my weapon a few times and dashing back out, but the energy cost of this maneuver often results in overheating. When you only usually hit one enemy with a melee attack, it’s not worth the cost. There are a few skills that make it more viable, such as one that allows you to reflect bullets with your melee weapons, but in general, it’s not a great use of a weapon slot. I’ll be damned if that stopped me from having one in every single run I did though, purely because of how freaking cool it looks.
Speaking of enemies though, one of the absolutely amazing things that NeuroVoider does is that every enemy (with the exception of big bosses) is made up of the same parts that you can have. Like the maps and levels, they’re all randomly generated, which can lead to some scary situations where an unassuming little Dash-class enemy has a weapon that shoots 10 rockets a second in your direction. The game does a very good job at keeping you on your feet with this; you always have to keep in mind that anything you can do, so can enemies. It’s terrifying and exhilarating. Because of this, there’s another neat little feature that you’ll no doubt stumble upon in your runs — sometimes, when you die, your robot corpse will become an enemy the next time you reach that level. It’s a nice little touch, and it blew my mind the first time it happened; there’s nothing quite like killing yourself.
There’s a wide variety of level types, and each is ranked in three areas: size, elites, and loot. Elites are powerful enemies, but often levels with a high amount of elites have higher loot levels. There’s also a rare type of level called a Metaverse, which is more or less a challenge level. Some of these will have a time limit, or a horde of enemies, usually of one type. They’re tough levels, but they have a significantly higher chance of rare loot, so it’s always worth taking them on. In between levels, you’ll have a chance to forge and equip new components you’ve picked up, repair your robot, and sell any components you don’t need. You’ll need to sell a lot of the gear you pick up in later levels because money is used to repair your robot, with each subsequent repair costing roughly twice as much as the last. The good news is that if you can’t afford to repair, you can simply pick a low-risk level to try and grind out some gear to sell.
The levels themselves are (like most things in the game) absolutely beautiful. There’s a wide variety of environments, from lush forests to frozen wastelands (with ice physics and everything!), and all of them are some of the best-looking environments I’ve ever seen in a pixel-art game. A lot of people would object to CRT filters in pixel-art games, and normally I would too, but in NeuroVoider, it just kind of works. I don’t know why, but this particular CRT filter is incredibly pleasing to look at and doesn’t take away from the game at all. For a game to make me enjoy the way a CRT filter looks is a big achievement.
So, as we’ve established, the game looks great and plays well, wouldn’t it be nice if I could share that with somebody? Well, NeuroVoider pulls through on that front too, offering four-player couch multiplayer, where up to four adorable robot babies can smash things up together. The multiplayer plays exactly like the single player, just with more players, so there’s not much to say about that other than “it’s very good”. You can even play with a single Joy-Con each, which forces aiming to automatically lock-on to the closest enemy. One minor drawback is that there’s no online multiplayer. Now, I get it. Flying Oak, the developers of NeuroVoider, are a very small studio, so some things, like online multiplayer, might not be high on the priorities list. But man, it would have been so nice to have it. I don’t think it detracts from the experience at all, it’s a very good game with or without online multiplayer, but it would have been icing on the cake. But maybe it’s something that could be incorporated in the future.
NeuroVoider has been one of those experiences that I don’t think I’d have even bothered looking into if it hadn’t been on Switch. The Switch really is the best console for it, hands down. I spent more time playing in handheld mode, but it was extremely nice to come home after playing it out and about and dock to play on the big screen. And it’s a great way to show off the Switch in person too. I had a moment a few days ago where a friend was considering buying a Switch but wasn’t too sure yet. I pulled the Switch from my bag, propped up the kickstand, opened NeuroVoider and handed him a Joy-Con. After a few runs, he pulled out his phone and ordered a Switch online, right on the spot. And if that isn’t the biggest testament to the quality of the game and the fantastic experience of playing it on Switch, I don’t know what else is. NeuroVoider has found a home for adorable baby robots on my Switch, and I don’t think I can thank Flying Oak enough for that. I love my robot babies.
Easy to learn, difficult to master
Beautiful pixel aesthetics
Pick up and play multiplayer
No online multiplayer
I hate seeing my robot babies die