NeuroVoider is a fun, fast-paced shoot-‘em-up that offers virtually endless replayability and customization options. Billed by developer Flying Oak Games as a “futuristic twin-stick shooter RPG,” NeuroVoider offers procedurally generated levels and enemies alongside an innumerable set of weapons and armor with which to deck out your player character.
The premise of NeuroVoider is a simple one: you are a brain that breaks out of some kind of scientific research facility only to equip a set of robotic weapons and armor, hell-bent on destroying any robots that get in your way. Players will play through numerous levels, peppered every so often with large-scale boss fights, all the way to fight the final boss, NeuroVoider. As a lone brain, you start out choosing from one of three classes: Dash, Rampage, and Fortress. Each class can equip different kinds of components (Vision, Core, Transport, Left Gun, and Right Gun), and you can change classes on the fly by swapping in another classes’ component. You also get to choose a Skill, of which there are many (EMP will briefly disable enemies, Self.Repair() will restore one-third of your HP, etc.). After playing through a brief combat tutorial, the game thrusts you into sink-or-swim scenario, not giving you much else in the way of exposition.
Before beginning a level, the player is presented with three level choices, and each choice is presented by level type, level size, number of Elite enemies, and amount of potential loot to be gained. Since each level is procedurally generated, you might end up with a small level with a high number of Elites and a ton of loot, but you’re just as likely to end up with the next level being large in size with few Elites and not much in the way of loot. Or, you could end up with a small level with few Elites, but bursting with loot. It all depends on what the game generates.
As you play through each procedurally generated level, you destroy robots using your weapons, and there is a chance an enemy will drop a component they were using. Each level ends by destroying all Reactors within the level, but I always found it to be good practice to also destroy all enemies before leaving the level—more enemies equals more loot. By the end of any given level, you might end up with a ton of Visions, Cores, or guns, and you can mix and match them to your liking. Given that enemy difficulty significantly ramps up at a sometimes unforgiving pace, I often found it good practice to constantly update my weapons to more powerful versions after each level. Even if I’d been using a weapon type that had excellent coverage at a decent EP cost, after one or two levels, it simply wouldn’t pack enough of a punch to break through the latest swarm of enemies. In this, I think NeuroVoider does an excellent job of keeping players on their toes. This, coupled with permadeath—that, if you die, your character and progress are done for good—makes each level an almost nail-biting experience.
After each level, you’re brought to an inventory screen. You’re restored a modest amount of HP (and can restore more with Scrap, the game’s currency), and then you’re free to swap out your old components for your newly acquired ones. Each component has a chance of being of Uncommon, Special, Rare, or Glitched quality, and can be scrapped or boosted at your discretion. You can also choose to forge new weapons or modules with excess Scrap, if your found loot isn’t up to your liking. Once you’ve equipped your brain to suit, you move onto the stage selection screen. Personally, I never toyed much with scrapping or boosting my weapons, as I often found myself going for the high-loot levels and finding plenty of powerful gear to ready myself for the coming levels.
Earlier, I’d mentioned permadeath, and that once you die, your progress goes away and you have to start again from scratch. The game keeps track of your furthest completion percentage, but aside from that, your save file is essentially obliterated. An interesting twist to this mechanic is the addition of a Diablo III-esque Nemesis system. If you die, a Nemesis, a special Super-Elite enemy, will appear in the stage where you died when you play through with your next character, decked out with the gear it died with. If you kill your Nemesis, you will acquire all its equipped loot, any boosts and upgrades intact. For a game that already has a rather steep difficulty curve, I can’t remember how many times I died at the hands of my Nemesis. These defeats never felt punitive; rather, I find that it speaks to the game’s ability to incentivize the player to continue on, trying out different builds and tactics to push ever closer to the final boss encounter.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the game’s beautiful pixel-art visuals and its excellent and upbeat soundtrack by Dan Terminus. I’m generally not a fan of this style of music, but it fits perfectly with the art style and cadence of the game.
In terms of hardware, NeuroVoider runs at a beautiful 720p and 60 frames per second in handheld mode, and at 1080p and 60 frames per second while docked. While I love the portability of a game like NeuroVoider, my larger hands felt rather cramped after a while playing in handheld, so I personally prefer playing the game docked using my Switch Pro Controller. I will say, though, the game looks absolutely stunning on the Switch’s screen.
While I didn’t have a chance to try out cooperative play, NeuroVoider does support it for up to four players, as well as single Joy-Con support with auto aim (due to the lack of a second stick), which is perfect for such a fast-paced game. I will definitely be up to trying some drop-in/drop-out local co-op for some easy and fast fun.
Taking the best of cues from rogue-lites and RPGs, NeuroVoider combines that, along with excellent twin-stick shooting fun, all into an excellent package for Nintendo Switch. Stunning visuals, a gorgeous soundtrack, and gameplay that is at times unforgiving yet fair all wrap up into a fantastic experience. All of this plus deep customization and a high replayability factor make this a must-own title for any Switch owner.
Disclaimer: A review code for NeuroVoider was provided by the game’s publisher.