Neon Chrome a triumph of design and gameplay

Bradley Smith / The Watchdog

With big-budget games dominating the market these days, it’s somewhat rare to find a truly outstanding simple game that is good for many hours of playtime. When I heard that 10tons, the developer of an older game called Crimsonland came out with a new game and saw rave reviews on Steam, I was intrigued.

Neon Chrome is a top-down shooter with cyberpunk stylings, only less gritty and full of neon-colored glow. Taking place in an enormous tower, the goal is to fight through 30 levels and a handful of bosses to reach the throne room and defeat the oppressive overseer.

Roguelike elements are also featured, most prominent being procedurally generated maps offer enough variety that players don’t get bored. Unlike basically every game with random maps, Neon Chrome doesn’t rely on the level design solely for replayability. Instead of being the central feature, the level generation is a necessity next to Neon Chrome’s main mechanic.

In Neon Chrome, the player takes control of a nameless hacker who takes possession of ‘assets’ which then enter the game to challenge the Overseer. Unlike thousands of other arcade-style games where every death rolls everything back to the start, every death in Neon Chrome is one step closer to defeating the Overseer. Before an asset is activated, the player has an opportunity to spend money earned in previous runs to upgrade global stats that apply to every asset as well as customize equipment for the next asset.

Neon Chrome features multiple classes, numerous weapons, secondary abilities and perks to give players the freedom to choose any playstyle they want. From long-distance accuracy shots to frenetic shotgun combat to melee or even stealth, every style is balanced and viable.

Where most roguelikes leave the player at the mercy of randomly-generated items, Neon Chrome allows the player some preparation. Players can start off by buying a desired weapon, purchasing a desired secondary ability and a perk to start out with, or choosing from three randomly built characters. I can play exactly the style I want with the exact gear I want and it’s tremendous.
Perks are the only things that are somewhat random. Upgrade booths are scattered through the levels and offer the choice of three or four randomly selected perks. While I often get frustrated with classic and modern roguelikes, I’ve never suffered due to bad perk availability in Neon Chrome.

With tons of unlockables and increasing levels of difficulty, Neon Chrome offers potentially hundreds of hours of gameplay. With increased difficulty also comes more effective perks, players can get tremendously overpowered but face drastically more enemies. To have such balance in a game is tremendously entertaining.

Sadly, the game lacks in the music department. Three or four songs plus a boss battle song gets real repetitive real fast and I’ve found myself disabling sound in favor of other music or even silence. Additionally, randomly-generated names for assets have a pitifully small pool of names to choose from and repeat themselves often. Detracting more than it adds, I’d really prefer assets not be named at all.

Neon Chrome is a tremendously engaging game that one can play for ten minutes or three hours. With intense battles and fantastically solid game design, it’s in contention for one of the best games I’ve ever played. Melding casual and arcade-style with a long grind to completion, 10tons absolutely knocked this one out of the park. For $15 on Steam and often less during sales, I cannot recommend it enough for gamers of all types.