Life as a brain in a jar is pretty boring. So, you decide to break out. Realizing there's not much you can do with all that gray matter and no arms or legs, you decide a delicious mech suit will suit your escape purposes quite nicely. Thus begins NeuroVoider, an intense dual stick rogue-lite shooter with a high level of difficulty and a slick couch co-op mode built right in.
NeuroVoider can be summed up in two words: shooting and looting. The game sends pile upon pile of enemies at you, each armed with bright, speedy bullets and painful weaponry. Using your suit's own abilities, you'll dispatch these foes one group at a time, working your way through a series of randomly generated levels that get progressively larger and more difficult to complete. Along the way you'll pick up loads of scraps and loot, both useful for outfitting your mech to survive the waves of baddies to come.
When starting a new round of NeuroVoider, your first act will be to choose a mech. Dash, Rampage and Fortress each have their own playing styles roughly corresponding to speed, attack, and defense, though in practice it's much more nuanced than that. Mechs have two different guns and a couple of special attacks to unleash, all of which deplete an energy meter if used too frequently. This forces you to do more than just press the shoot button until everything dies. NeuroVoider makes you play smart, even on the lowest difficulty level.
Furthering the load-out customization is a set of 25 skills you can equip before heading into the game. Scroll through the list and decide which one suits your style. Everything from health regen bonuses to loot boosters is available. You can only pick one, but don't worry, you'll be dying soon enough, and in NeuroVoider, when you die, you start all over again. Hooray for rogue-lites!
The main flow of the game drops you in a level with the simple goal of destroying all of the reactors. There are usually only a couple to be found, but getting there is most of the battle, since levels are packed full of things that want you to be dead. Defeated enemies and certain crates hide scraps and loot. While fighting for your life, be sure to pick up as much of these as you can. Half of the NeuroVoider experience is centered around tinkering with upgrades.
After completing a level you'll engage in what NeuroVoider calls an "intermission". Intermissions give you a chance to repair and upgrade your mech using the scraps and loot you just picked up. Scroll through the list and choose an item you like, whether it be an HP upgrade, mobility upgrades, or a new gun for your left or right slots. A lot of the items you'll find will be for a different mech than the one you're playing, but don't worry, you can scrap things you don't need and use the parts to create your own upgrades. Intermissions usually turn into lengthy diversions, but hey, who doesn't like equipping new stuff?
NeuroVoider comes with three levels of difficulty, starting with n00b easy and ending with hardcore bullet hell. No matter which level you choose, you're in for a good challenge. You'll probably have to play and die a few times before you get the hang of the game. It's not just about shooting and looting, you have to employ offensive and defensive tactics, choose your load-outs wisely, and know when to run away. NeuroVoider will make you think, which makes a lot of sense, seeing as how you play as a brain in a jar.
Co-op is phenomenal in NeuroVoider, this game was made to be played with multiple people. Up to four local players can grab a gamepad, pick a brain and join the fight. Players run around the same screen peppering the room with their own brand of bullets. Enemies have increased hit points the more players you add, and the occasional loot fight can break out if you don't pick and choose which items to grab. Communicate with your teammates, though, and the entire experience is flawless from beginning to end. There are even multiple load-out skills tailor made for co-op play.
While NeuroVoider packs a lot of variety into its mech designs, loot drops and skill customizations, the rest of the game ends up feeling a bit samey. Level layouts are different each time you play, but there are only so many things you can do with L-shaped walls and a couple of loot boxes. Enemies also fall on the dull side of things. They come in two basic varieties: enemies that shoot at you, and tougher enemies that shoot at you. Boss battles change things up a bit, but overall your main survival tactics will remain "shoot, retreat, shoot". Fortunately for NeuroVoider, co-op play smooths over these rough spots to keep you engaged.
NeuroVoider is well-built and offers a lot of challenge. The mix of shooter and RPG balances instant gratification with long term goals, giving you plenty of excuses to play just one more level, especially when you've got a couple of friends in on the action. And to top it all off, the soundtrack by Dan Terminus is killer. If you don't mind the samey-feeling levels and mindless enemies, NeuroVoider is just the octane-riddled shooter you've been looking for.
UPDATED BY MATT SQUAIRE 3/15/17 TO INCLUDE CONSOLES (PLAYED ON XBOX ONE)
After reading John's review, I was very excited to try the game on consoles (where I play most of my games) so I grabbed a friend for some couch Co-Op, but my thoughts varied a bit from his.
NeuroVoider is well-built. There is good fun to be had in the loop of destroying foes with powerful weapons, grabbing new ones, trying new powers, customizing the robots and repeating until you get to destroy bosses. My partner was a heavier class and I was lighter, with my abilities allowing me to dash around the battlefield (often out of fire, rather than towards foes) and theirs allowing them to lock-down and shield-up, taking bullets but being unable to fire.
On the other hand, the RPG elements and Co-Op often felt as though they were not totally fleshed out. The loot is exciting to get, but hard to use, as I often found myself collecting great items that would fit well on a different type of robot. "Should I change class? Forsake what I have for what I got?" was a looming question that I had to weigh. I was unable to give loot to my partner who was a different class, leading to a heart dropping feeling as I would scrap items rather than helping my team. Co-Op only lasted as far as shooting robots, after that, it is every mech for themselves."Co-Op only lasted as long as shooting robots"
As far as the RPG elements go, they also worked, when customizing. Loot collection was hard to navigate, as you cannot tell what you are picking up, and, in the heat of battle, you often don't want to. Between running and gunning, seeing the quality of what I was collecting was the last thing on my to-do list. My partner used their in-game currency to repair themselves after rounds (they died a lot) but it meant that I was getting better and better loot, leaving them further behind each round. The bosses and elites we fought were a wash for my partner; they died, I battled onward to collect more valuable loot.
In the end, the game is solid, built on a good, fun loop of shooting and looting, as we said in the original review. However, when it comes to both of those things, a partner can be left behind simply due to the game not including any way to catch up.MATT'S SCORE: Co-Op 3.5/5 Overall:3.5/5