Review – Neon City Riders

The cyberpunk style has been popular on and off since the 1980’s. Its blend of technology and bright neon color schemes simply cannot be ignored. It was first sensationalized with the wildly popular film Blade Runner in 1982 and has kept alive through the years with titles like¬†Shadowrun,¬†Neo Cab, Deus Ex, and Transistor. Not to mention the highly anticipated upcoming game from CD Projekt Red, Cyberpunk 2077. Until that game finally releases to the delight of gamers everywhere, we have Mecha Studios’ Neon City Riders to help satisfy that cyberpunk craving.

Set in a post-apocalyptic future, robots and mutants have taken over the world. You play as Rick, a badass in a hockey mask, who has made it his mission to save Neon City from the turf war waging between four hostile gangs of super-powered mutants. Armed with his machete, tenacity, and some superpowers of his own, Rick must fight his way through slews of freaks and robots in order to restore piece to his crumbling city.

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Neon City is simultaneously grimy and breathtaking.

This is a game that is clearly a love letter to 80’s arcade beat ’em ups. The first thing that drew me in was the graphics. Neon City Riders features a somewhat pixelated art style and a vivid neon color palette. It’s a top down 2D action game with lots of character sprites filling the screen, as well as tons of environmental oddities. I had such a good time just looking around each screen at all the little details within them. The dialogue is displayed through text boxes with animated pixelated characters by them, much like games from the 80’s era.

The sound design is also clearly 80’s arcade game inspired. Everything, from the electronic sound effects to the chiptune music, pays homage to that time period. The soundtrack is solid too. It runs the gambit from creepy and foreboding to heart-pumping and intense, especially during boss fights. The music changes in each area, so you’ll never get bored with it. The synthesized rock anthems fit the whole tone and feel of this game like a leather fingerless glove.

Neon City Riders

I wish there were ramen carts in the arcades I use to play in as a kid.

Naturally the gameplay feels exactly like an 80’s beat ’em up. The controls are pretty basic; you can move, attack, dash, and use a few super powers that are assigned to specific buttons. It’s not overly complex, but it’s still very challenging. The use of superpowers add a lot of fun as well. You will gain abilities like dashing, temporary invincibility, redirecting incoming projectiles, and seeing hidden paths and objects. You’ll need to strategically utilize every one of these in order to get past certain obstacles, solve puzzles, and defeat numerous foes. The combat is very fast-paced and each enemy you encounter will have their own type of attack that requires precise timing to avoid.

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Is this the Matrix?

I have to give Neon City Riders major praise for having a wide variety of enemy designs. There’s a surprising amount of diversity among all the character models and the same can be said for the different attack moves. Some shoot various projectiles, some will charge at you, others will teleport around the screen, etc. Even foes with similar attacks will often times look a little different from one to another. It keeps the whole game feeling fresh and interesting.

The enemies aren’t the only thing with lots of variety. Each character in the game has their own distinct look and many of them are hilariously quirky. I spent a lot of time talking to every person I saw, just to hear what zany thing they had to say. Some of them give side quests too. This provides a whole extra layer to the game and gives you an even larger sense of purpose. Many of the quests are silly, but some add an element of humanity to a mostly non-human population. I appreciated having quests to follow to break up the bouts of beating mutants to pulp. Not that destroying bad guys isn’t fun (let’s be honest, that’s what we’re here for), but I also loved having additional objectives to give this game more depth.

Neon City Riders

Typical girl with daddy issues.

Neon City Riders is an absolute blast to play, especially if you’re a fan of retro-gaming and 80’s pop culture. Much like games from that time, it can be difficult with its fast pace and precise timing, but it’s punishingly fun. For gamers from that era, like myself, it’s one giant nostalgia bomb. Even if you’re a younger gamer, you can still get a kick out of its stylized look, absurd humor, and its chaotic and unapologetically tough gameplay. I’m thrilled to see games like this do justice to those from the past. Don’t pass up the chance to give Neon City Riders a test drive.

 

Graphics: 8.0

A retro-styled game with a vibrant color pallet and tons of varying enemy designs.

Gameplay: 8.0

Like the arcade beat ’em ups from the 80’s, Neon City Riders is easy to pick up, but difficult to master. It can be brutally challenging, but not necessarily unfair.

Sound: 9.0

The sound effects are well done, but it’s the soundtrack that stands out most. Heart-pumping electronic beats complete the cyperpunk feel and 80’s inspiration.

Fun Factor: 8.0

Neon City Riders is a ton of fun with lots of quirky characters, sidequests, and silly things to look at. It can be really tough, but that’s par for the course with games from that time.

Final Verdict: 8.0

Neon City Riders is available now on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Neon City Riders was provided by the publisher.