There really is nothing quite like the loop of a roguelike. The short turn around prevents you from getting too attached to a character and constantly restarting keeps player momentum going in a way only old arcade classics seem to have had the ability to. Neurovoider is a futuristic twin stick shooter on the PS4 with roguelike elements, from developer Flying Oaks. You and up to four friends play as brains in robot bodies in some machine infested future, destroying hordes of robots while grabbing loot and doing your best to not die.
On the story front, Neurovoider is pretty light. The tutorial and the ending provide little bits of exposition, you’re here to kill the Neurovoider, some sort of all-powerful machine. None of us are here for the plot anyway, you’ve told me what to shoot now set me free, and so the fine guys and gals over at Flying Oaks did. Set us free to reign nuclear hell on some machines.
Players with a lot of experience in the Roguelike realm may notice something unusual right away. You have three difficulties to choose from. While this isn’t terribly common in the genre, it isn’t unheard of, and Neurovoider is still a twin stick shooter at heart. At the start of a game, you have the option of three builds. Dash, a typically smaller robot with an ability that allows it to dash through enemy fire without taking damage, Rampage bots can use an ability to temporarily boost their firepower and mobility, and Fortress bots can power down weapons to put up a shield temporarily. Loot is picked up in the form of robot parts. Weapons, cores, heads, and legs. Although parts are class specific, except for weapons switching out your core can change your class, so don’t feel locked in. You’ll also be able to pick one none class specific ability when you start a run. These abilities range from group healing to a large scale EMP, so choose wisely.
When you’re outfitted and ready to shoot you’ll have one weapon equipped to each trigger. Don’t let the term twin stick shooter fool you, you’ll have just as many options for melee weapons as guns. No matter what weapons you’re using every attack will deplete some EP. These energy points recharge over time, and upgrading components on your bot can afford you more EP. If you run out of EP your robot will overheat and be temporarily unable to attack.
A run of Neurovoider, should you survive to the end, features twenty levels, four of which are boss encounters. In between every none boss level, you’ll be given three levels to choose from. Each of these will have a meter giving you an idea of its size, amount of elite enemies, and loot rarity. Here comes in the risk vs. reward concept. Will you play it safe or go for the loot filled level crawling with enemies? Every now and again you may get the option to play a special level. These stages have special conditions like time limits but taking them on results in a chance for better loot or tokens that allow you to skip levels.
Level structure is simple, your goal is to destroy a specific number of generators. Once you have them all, you can teleport out at your leisure or choose to stay and grab more sweet loot. Boss levels are a pretty unique experience. Bosses have multiple parts that need to be destroyed and can spawn enemies, it makes for a hectic bullet hell atmosphere that is particularly challenging when playing solo. In a group things feel a bit more relaxed but lucky played most of Neurovoider solo.
Local multiplayer adds an interesting depth as you’ll be able to try out multiple different skill combos and watch each other’s backs. Neurovoider doesn’t allow for saving in co-op, so you’ll have to beat it in one run or die trying.
Once you’ve beat Neurovoider it’ll be tougher your next time through. It’s a loop with no end in sight and an immensely satisfying one. I’ve only managed one full run through in my time with the game, but hopefully, that won’t remain true for long.
Dan Terminus put out the soundtrack, and it definitely drives home Neurovoider’s sense of cyberpunk style. The techno beats provide a fun backtrack for the heavy weapon carnage. Level design, however, feels a bit uninspired. You have a few different aesthetics, from sewers to graveyards but they feel all too similar. It’s a small gripe, but a bit more variety would’ve gone a long way.
NeuroVoider is a fun twin-stick shooter that embraces the better parts of the roguelike genre. Its fast paced gameplay will keep you coming back, especially if you have a few friends to play with. While level design gets old quick, NeuroVoider’s fast paced shooting won’t relent long enough for it to really bother you.