Neon Abyss Review

I’m a sucker for two things: cyberpunk themes and pixel graphics. Neon Abyss has both. After already falling in love with the art style, I went in with good expectations for this platformer. The result? I wasn’t disappointed. It wasn’t a perfect experience, but it was still the type of game where you could curse the RNG gods for a poor run yet still want to keep on going, run after run, despite the uncertainty of what the abyss in front of you may hold. And for a roguelite dungeon crawler, that’s a compliment.

The story

Yeah, who am I kidding. No one plays a game like this for the story. The premise is that you are a member of a task force whose mission is to take down the five managers of the Neon Abyss night club who dwell down in … well, the Abyss. The night club itself serves as your hub, providing you with all the essential services you need like difficulty selection, character selection, a bar, and a dance floor. And, of course, there is the giant gaping hole in front of the club’s back entrance that serves as your method of entry into the Abyss. Once you’re done raving with the DJ, go out back, jump down, and you’ll begin the game proper.

It’s called Neon Abyss because it’s neon and there’s an abyss.

Now, to get to a manager, you must fight your way through at least five stages, each having a boss at the end with the final stage having you face the manager themselves. It isn’t going to be a walk through the park though. Each stage gets progressively harder, as the mobs you encounter become deadlier with each advancement. If you survive, then congrats: you’re one step closer to fulfilling your duty. Die, and, well, it was a good run, I hope.

How stuff works: Abyss edition

So let’s talk about the makeup of the Abyss. It’s procedurally generated, meaning the amount of fun you’ll be having is entrusted in the hands of a cold and uncaring AI. The first room you encounter upon breaking your shins falling through the hole will always be home to a portal stone. Find more rooms with portal stones, and you’ll be able to teleport between each of them. Other than that, it’s fair game for the procedural generation. The normal rooms of the dungeon will contain an assortment of monsters and hopefully other goodies like chests. The special rooms, however, are what you’ll be trying to find. There’s the boss rooms, of course. You also have treasure rooms that provide you with power-ups, arena rooms where you fight waves of monsters to obtain a reward in the end, and shop rooms where you can purchase items provided that you have enough coins. Before a run, you’re able to enter in a seed code which will always generate the same dungeon, having the same items in the same chests and always having every room in a fixed spot.

There’s always some platforming you got to do. You’ll be utilizing jump pads, disappearing platforms, and destructible crates to be able to reach heights you normally can’t just by jumping. Sometimes there will be a corner in a room containing a chest that you can’t reach without an item giving you better mobility, like a double jump item. It’s great that you won’t walk into the same room twice, but sometimes the procedural generation misses the mark: there’s plenty of times where a room has places to jump to but with absolutely nothing there, not even a crate. It would make you think there’s some sort of secret hidden, but no, it’s just empty.

With every boss you defeat, you get gems that you can spend at the bar to get new additions to the dungeon such as rules (modifications to the dungeon), characters, item packs, and special rooms. Of interest are the special rooms as they act as mini-games of sorts within the dungeon. The piano room, for example, lets you jump around a giant piano’s keys in the hopes of earning a reward for your performance. As you defeat more managers, you will unlock more upgrades to unlock at your leisure.

What the Abyss can do for you

The game’s controls are simple so you shouldn’t have any issues with that end. At the start each character will have a gun and potentially an item giving you an ability. The starting gun sucks, just so you know, so you’ll need to either find a new gun or find items to upgrade it. For most runs you’ll likely manage to get a new gun in the first level one way or another. There’s quite a few guns to pick from, and if you’re like me, you’ll feel as if each one is better than the last. In one run, I found a black raven that acted as a laser gun. Didn’t fire fast, but it was accurate and went pew pew. The next run, I found a red dragon, a rocket launcher that homed in on its targets and could destroy those pesky stones blocking parts of the map. The run after that, I found an airgun that shot bullets as fast as a minigun could.

It’s a decent gun variety, but the guns themselves only serves as a base bullet template. With item drops you can pick up around the dungeon, you’ll upgrade your guns from a plain shooting device to a projectile-dispensing eviscerator you can be confident in taking on the managers with. The end of my airgun run had me using items that gave me stronger bullets, an even faster firing rate, homing rockets every few seconds, splitting bullets, and a straight damage increase. There’s no limit to how many upgrades you can take, meaning that you can end up having a ridiculously overpowered gun by the final stage. There’s also other upgrades that can you give buffs like more health, dropping items upon certain conditions, a boost in the amount of coins you have, and more.

You don’t have to be alone during your foray into the dungeon: throughout the run you’ll find eggs that, given enough time, may potentially hatch into pets. These bad boys will assist you by either shooting at the enemies or provide other supportive abilities such as collecting the coins around the room. Like items, you may have an unlimited amount of pets—in theory, at least. Not all eggs will successfully hatch and, just like your own character, pets have their own HP and will perish if they take too much damage. If you can keep them alive, however, you’ll have a miniature army following you from level to level, giving the enemies you find a bullet hell of your own design.

What you may not like about the Abyss

Now, as much as I enjoyed playing this game, there are undoubtedly issues with the game design. The biggest issue by far is the overreliance on RNG. There are times where you can get an incredible gun and amazing upgrades for it to make you think, “this is the run.” Then there are the times when you are stuck with the starter weapon with no upgrades for it, causing the classic quip to ring true: better luck next time.

They aren’t lying.

The RNG also goes as far as limiting how well you can navigate the Abyss itself. In the dungeon you’ll find many locked doors and chests requiring keys to open; there are also stone bricks that can only be destroyed through the use of explosives, namely bombs. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to have runs where you find very few keys or bombs, forcing you to give up on any potential loot gated behind those obstacles.

You have a choice of having a playstyle geared toward wisdom and violence. You can fill up a bar for that playstyle by performing certain actions (e.g. use red crystals to increase violence). Continue on that path, and you will gain access to a loot pool for that specific playstyle. Unfortunately, the game tends to force you onto the violence playstyle as your pets will often shoot at wisdom objects, reducing your wisdom and filling up your violence bar. It’s a cool mechanic, but it’s rather flawed because of this issue.

As fun as becoming an overpowered monster masher is, it does highlight the balancing issues in this game. When it comes to bosses, it is possible to not be hit a single time, but not likely. With a regular build, you’ll either take a while to kill the boss or just die trying. With a really strong build, you’ll just melt them. Depending on your items, you can either be struggling in your run or literally have no issues whatsoever, clearing rooms within a few seconds. There are other issues I could think of, but these are the main gripes I have with the game.

There is evidence that the game is not fully complete yet (such as the broken elevator and broken statue at the night club) which to me, is a good sign. It means the developers intend to work further on the game. And it does need some fixes. Although the game is fairly standard for a roguelite, it’s still fun to play, especially on those godly runs where you have that feeling of being on top of the world from being so busted with your item synergies. With the certain potential of having new content added to the game, I believe its worth buying Neon Abyss. Perhaps not now as there are some important bugs to patch, but in the near future. It’s not a game that wants to stand out in the roguelite genre; it’s a game that wants you to have fun. And it will do just that.

You can find Neon Abyss on Steam here.

You can also find Neon Abyss on GOG.com here.

You can also find Neon Abyss on the Nintendo Switch here.

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