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Binding of Isaac meets Enter the Gungeon in this spectacular rogue-lite gem, with an earned title of Neon Abyss; you jump headfirst into the side scroller shoot-em-up, hurling an endless stream of bullets at squishy blood-filled foes with pixel-art backdrops that gush personality. There’s no doubt that these arcade-inspired retrograde platformers are abundant in number, with many falling to the wayside as generic copycat clones with little on offer, but Neon Abyss is not that. It has a charming aesthetic, from the statue of a maiden clad with glowsticks to the cat-gun that has you awkwardly hold a feline, regurgitating a mass of projectiles at the hordes of enemies.

Gameplay

Finding a time-killer rogue-lite that doesn’t border on mediocre and uninspired is like looking for a needle in a haystack – there are far too many attempts at diving into the genre, and only a handful of Downwell and Hade’s types manage to come out of the other end unscathed. Luckily, Neon Abyss has the chops to join the ranks of Slay the Spire and Dead Cells, with its tight-knit responsive control scheme, wealth of replay value, abundance of quirky and intriguing weaponry and an unbelievably personality-rich aesthetic that makes you feel like you’re in a mishmash between Castlevania and Cyberpunk 2077.

Once you stumble through the fast-paced tutorial that brings you up to speed in a hot minute, you’ll be thrust into the meat of the bones which is simplicity in all its glory. Simply put, you start in a hub with a difficulty slider, a bar that allows you to purchase upgrades, a dance floor to let loose, and a character selector that lets you slide through a roster of unlockable personalities. Then, when you’ve got yourself decked out and ready to go, you jump into a hole and land smack bang in a randomly generated dungeon with various levels, each punctuated by a boss fight that rewards you with passive upgrades. There are items to be found, shops to be perused and squishy foes to squish.

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The challenge comes from dodging the bullets hurled your way, as is the case in most arcade-inspired, Metroidvania side-scrolling shooters. Neon Abyss basks in its inspirations but it manages to stand out with its own style and gameplay edge. Unlike Gungeon, you won’t find yourself with a get out of jail free card by means of rolling, but the bullets aren’t quite as fast-paced as the tormented Genocide bosses of Undertale. The crux of the difficulty comes from learning the patterns and keeping a watchful eye, which makes it extremely rewarding. You might lose some sleep over a boss and let out a sigh of disappointment every time it finds itself on your run, but when you finally nail their moveset and perfect the fight, the satisfaction earned makes it a worthwhile venture.

Story / Personality

What ultimately works with Neon Abyss is its embracing of the rogue-lite genre, opting to put gameplay at the forefront and letting story and narrative take a back seat, with an emphasis on developing replay value first and foremost. Nonetheless, it has an unbelievably strong personality, from the digital computer-faced boss to the American Idol pop star gone rogue right through to the vibrant and colorful rave unfolding above all the carnage that you find yourself knee-deep in.

Graphics / Art Direction

Pixel graphics, when done right, can be utterly stunning, and Neon Abyss one-hundred-percent nailed the landing, with its gothic architecture clad in frat-kid decor with statues adorning a variety of neon-colored accessories, whether that’s hoops on their wrists, halo’s on their heads or glowsticks sprawling from their backs. The nifty art design is all well and good, but how does it fare on the Switch itself? It hasn’t taken a hit, or at least not to any noticeable degree, with crisp and clean visuals that look superb on a handheld and equally as fantastic on a bigger screen, especially when you find yourself rolling in the action with the immense amount of polish and fine-tuning on full display.

Neon Abyss doesn’t stop at an interesting art-direction that mashes conflicting genres in a strangely fluid manner, with medieval stone brick walls adorned with accessories that feel right out of Total Recall, from the posters to the graffiti. It is also brought to fruition with stunning lighting and a wealth of engaging effects, from the blood of your foes lingering on the walls, faded as it blends in, to the reflective water that slowly bobs along. Bullets have weight, there’s plenty of added touches and collecting items and causing chaos feels impactful given the crisp explosions and splatters, complemented by the sweet, sweet HD rumble.

Music / Sound Design

Nearly everything in Neon Abyss is memorable to a T, and there’s no doubt that the hours will quickly rack up given how action-packed, easy-to-pick-up and replayable the experience is. However, the music isn’t anything special, feeling like your average cyberpunk action techno. That being said, sound design is on par with the art direction, graphics, gameplay, and all that comes in the cracks between, only serving to enhance that weighty gusto that comes from unleashing bullet hell onto hordes of monstrous Lovecraftian nightmares.

Final Score: 90%

Neon Abyss is a must-have for the Switch that deserves a spot on your roster and a modicum of your time. It’s an instant classic that will no doubt serve to entertain for years to come, not failing to disappoint whatsoever. From its clean user interface to its wondrous backdrops to its wealth of items that serve to make each run a new experience, Neon Abyss excels, bordering on perfection.

Thank you for checking out our Neon Abyss Switch review, thank you to Team17 for providing the review code and thank you to our $5 and up Patreon Backers for their ongoing support:

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Posted by James Troughton

James is a writer from England who also works for TheGamer and CBR