At a glance, Neon Chrome probably won’t blow your mind, but it was definitely a solid top-down shooter experience. Unfortunately, the storyline felt too thin, making itself really only work as the backdrop for gameplay.
The story of Neon Chrome takes place in a dystopian sci-fi future. You play an unknown hacker that takes control of various supersoldier bodies, fighting through the Overseer’s personal army of organic and robot forces. The range of both of these enemy types is solid – taking vertical and horizontal approaches to the varieties. Organics range from the basic foot soldier, to the heavily armored minigun wielding Commanders. As humanoids, they all have the same basic look – but change up their weapon loadouts the tougher of a level they are. Robots are much more free in terms of their overall form though. There are little suicide scouter robots that try and kamikaze you, spider robots that split into two miniturized versions of themselves once you kill the big one, and even balls of heat energy.
The hub room has a front section where you customize your loadout. You have an array of options from your weapons, to your abilities, and enhancements. It’s limited to only pre-choosing one of each, despite the fact you have up to ten slots in that section of your character. A minor gripe, at best. The middle section allows you to spend your cash on skill upgrades that apply universally across all your characters. You can boost your health and energy levels, enhance your damage output and luckiness, as well as buying additional enhancement slots.
The only class that really matters is the Hacker. It unlocks special containers, terminals, and doors during your game run. On the character selection screen, you get to pick from three randomly chosen classes and sometimes the Hacker isn’t there. You can work around this by restarting the game again from the main menu, refreshing the given options in doing so. But the fact that there’s enough of a motive to going out of your way to try and get the Hacker class choice shows the imbalance between the available options. The only viable alternative I could make a strong argument for is the Assassin class, which comes equipped with an invisibility cloak. The implementation of the camouflage device makes it so it only works while you’re standing still and away from direct view of the enemy. It felt powerful, but not flawless. Neon Chrome‘s other classes needed more memorable attributes like that.
The main objective of most of the stages is getting from the blue elevator to the green elevator. Sometimes it’s a straight dash from point A to point B, but mixed in with that is an extra objective of destroying a certain amount of orange server targets to make the green elevator room unlock. As a game mode, it certainly gets to the point of what Neon Chrome is trying to do here. No foreplay or distractions – you’re always jumping in immediately to shoot some bad guys straight up. The level layouts themselves play it safe when it comes to maintaining a consistent theme. Things you would expect a dystopian sci-fi future setting, like that found in the Judge Dredd comics, is used here.
Special challenge rooms are accessed via purple elevators that sometimes appear in Neon Chrome‘s levels. These sections are much more puzzle and environment oriented, helping to somewhat break up the combat-heavy main levels. The downside is that these parts of the game are too far in-between to be an effective element of their own. There’s limitless creative potential for challenge room ideas, yet it feels like the players only see a fraction of that here.
Destructible walls add a feeling of tactical variety to the experience. They allow to make shortcuts between different rooms, and ambush hostile forces from different angles. Don’t worry about alarming the A.I. – they don’t notice you shooting holes in the wall, but they immediately spring into action as soon as you shoot someone. Heat laser traps are also an obstacle you’ll often come across. They do just enough damage when you run into them to be an actual threat to your character, striking the right balance between “no problem at all” and “instant kill”. Mines and floor/wall turrets finish off the marathon of hazards nicely.
The boss fights of Neon Chrome step away from the standard approach of enemy firefights, but they’re too sparse and far between to have much of an impact on the game. Making the last two bosses reskins of the first three felt like a lazy cop-out. Out of the mecha snake, robot spider, and space cruiser – you later fight a slightly bigger snake and have a slightly more complicated robot spider battle. The game developers showed that they can make some neat metallic minions to throw at you, but didn’t go as far as they could with the boss ideas. Even if it was fighting against a GIANT BALL OF ENERGY, it would’ve at least been an original idea and not a copy.
The story of the Overseer’s history and how he got to be the King of the Neon Chrome building plays out during the initial campaign missions. But you only get to complete them once, then they appear to be gone forever from any replays you do. Making your main character’s official name be “unknown hacker” fails to accomplish any sort of reliability between the player and the game, and instead reinforces the idea that it’s just a placeholder. Spoiling the end of Neon Chrome will save you any amount of needless suspense the game might drum up for you, so if you read past this line be warned what’s in store.
Don’t click the following links if you don’t like spoilers. They pretty much took all their cues from this game. The one with that ending. Although the game is a bit dated now, most readers don’t need me to say anymore. A link to the ending of that game is included just in case you forgot that final fight.
Post-game content for Neon Chrome comes in two different forms. The first of which is unlocking a “2.0” mode that has an increased enemy difficulty. You can unlock additional ranks to your skill upgrades, by going back through and completing challenge rooms again on your game run.
Neon Chrome fits the definition of what an “Okay” grade of experience is. The gameplay is fairly solid as a standard sci-fi top down shooter experience. The story didn’t do anything to draw me in, but instead seemed to go out of the way to disappoint me with the final moments. If I cared about the characters and setting of Neon Chrome, there would have been absolutely no emotional payoff for it. Playing it on and off over the course of two days, you’ll end up seeing everything that’s on offer here. Overall the game was entertaining enough to keep my attention, but there was definitely room for more content somewhere here. It would probably benefit from some kind of episodic story DLC, to help fill that exposition void.
A copy of the game was provided by the developer for the purpose of this review.