VRAM: ‘Neon Abyss’ is an explosion of fun, but with little challenge

By Robert Johnson Jr.
Arts & Features Editor

Roguelikes have been on the up-and-up since the days of Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl’s “The Binding of Isaac” in 2011, and, as such, there have been many attempts to replicate the success and feel of that monumental, genre-defining hit.

With that in mind, not every roguelike succeeds in doing this, but very few do – for instance, one of my favorite interpretations of the genre comes from Motion Twin’s “Dead Cells” from 2017. A beautifully animated, Metroidvania-inspired romp that houses a wealth of content that keeps me coming back for more.

I mention “Dead Cells” because the same can almost be said for Veewo Games’ “Neon Abyss,” a 2020-released twin-stick run-and-gun platformer roguelike published by Team17 that, much like “Dead Cells,” surprised me by how fun it was.

In it, you are sent on a mission by Hades – as in, the Greek god of the underworld – to defeat five “managers,” who also happen to be Greek mythological gods. To do this, you would need to jump into a pit – the titular “Neon Abyss” – to fight through rooms of enemies and, ultimately, defeat the target.

Sure, the premise might sound daunting, but fear not – this mission is not impossible.

You start out playing as Wade, a member of the Grim Squad who possesses a basic kit of items – three hit points, a key, and a grenade. However, you are not limited to playing as him – you can also choose to be Anna, who has four hit points, a key, but no grenades. Thankfully, there are many characters beyond them that you can unlock for later use.

But, when I say “later use,” I do mean later use. Unlocking the other characters – Matt, Lucas, R-6, and so on – takes a long time to do, not to mention a ridiculous number of runs through the abyss.

When you first start playing the game, things might seem a bit slow – after all, you did get thrown down into the pit after taking a shot of some mysterious, godly liquid with Hades, so it is to be expected – but that is because you’re still getting used to how “Neon Abyss” does things.

As you progress through the rooms, you encounter enemies of varying health values – green enemies are the easiest to kill, orange ones are slightly harder, and the red ones take a little more effort to eliminate. Some of the enemies in later runs don’t even follow this coloring convention, appearing clear in most instances – a nice touch!

These enemies will fire projectiles at you, but, thankfully, the patterns are easy to dodge, if you’re experienced with bullet hell games or similar roguelikes.

However, in engaging with these enemies, it should be noted that you should not let them corner you – apparently, should that happen, you are rendered unable to attack until they get killed or they kill you. That is probably a bug, but it is a frustrating one that drains you of your health and/or shields quickly in moments where you don’t want that happening.

The bosses are also unique, in the sense that they are “gods” of modern concepts. For example, Tik and Tok are the “Gods of Mobile Videos,” and Block and Chain are the “Gods of Bittercoin.” It should be noted that you don’t fight both of them at the same time, but, rather, they are palette-swapped variants of each other.

Sure, these are clever, especially with the names, but it does get a little monotonous to fight the same enemies with little variation, after a bit.

This doesn’t even begin to get into the pet system the game has, in which you collect eggs that may or may not hatch into assistants that can help you in your quest, which is pretty cool.

“Neon Abyss” knows how to make you feel powerful, but in it making you into this murder machine, Veewo Games kind of takes the challenge away from you. The manager fights take seconds with the right character build, and, after a while, you learn how to dispose of them while taking minimal damage of your own.

That, and it takes a bit of elbow grease – again, the same case with unlocking characters on the skill tree – to add some variety to the game.

However, in spite of its faults, which come from being a new game, I still love passing the time with “Neon Abyss,” and I am only excited for what comes next … if anything is added at all.Grade: B-
Makes you feel really cool, so long as you can avoid the occasional glitch.