There are a lot of twin stick roguelike indie shooters. There are a lot of indie games with a pixelart aesthetic and faux-retro soundtrack. Despite this, Neurovoider is a game with a phenomenally strong individual identity. Appropriate for a game which opens with a brain bursting free from a tank and constructing a new identity for itself.
Right from the opening bars of atmospheric sci-fi music, it’s clear this game is gonna be super cool. Very quickly, the tension is broken and we have balls-to-the-wall action. This is a game of chunky robots, meaty explosions, fast action and tight gameplay.
Levels, for the most part, involve exploring maps to destroy generators and slaughtering legions of other robots, collecting their parts to use in upgrading between rounds. This mid-round section is elevated enormously by the visual distinction in each part; upgrading feels less like a numbers game and more like building a robot in a classic Armoured Core game.
Adding to the tangibility of upgrading the robots, weapons have noticeable physicality. Missiles pop, lasers fizz and shotguns have a satisfying crunch. With this sort of thing, it’s easy to imagine feeling like the whole game resides in menus. The tangible feeling of using different weapons or building a new robot makes it a genuinely exciting prospect to take each new upgrade into the field.
Even with the amazing array of gear that can be acquired, this is not an easy game. Enemies come thick and fast and the bullets fill the screen. For a player unaccustomed to twin-stick action of this kind, dodging and weaving with one thumb while trying to target enemies at all angles with the other can be disorienting.
Oddly, this made me miss the classic Wii remote and nunchuk control scheme. The last game of this kind I played any serious amount of was Geometry Wars, and moving with the stick on the nunchuk while picking off enemies with the pointer was incredibly responsive and intuitive. It’s not entirely impossible to imagine this system being replicated with two Swtitch Joy-Con.
Elsewhere, the Switch feels like a perfect home for the game. Individual levels are small enough for bite-sized chunks on the go, while the aesthetics are gorgeous blown up onto a nice screen. Couch multiplayer is the system’s bread and butter and this game can be tackled with up to four players simultaneously, completely changing the flow. With a full team of robots working together, using a variety of weapons and techniques, healing and boosting each other, it can feel much more manageable.
The levels are procedurally generated, with a range of designs, thousands of possible enemy combinations and occasional special levels, bosses and other twists. Completing a full run without a game over is no easy task, and the potential for alternative routes is huge. On top of the base game, which features three very distinct difficulty levels, there is a daily challenge where every player is given the same set of levels and scores can be compared.
This isn't a game for everyone; regular game overs, pixel precision and constant pressure can be off-putting. With the right mindset to embrace the structure and challenge, this is exquisite roboviolence. The basic mechanics are never shaken too much, but the play is satisfying and varied enough to have legs. Or, if one prefers, little hover jets instead.