Review – Neon Abyss

I keep saying that the amount of indie roguelikes out there is big enough to warrant multiple “Atari from 1983” levels of market saturation. However, there’s always a title that entices me due to its setting or some schtick in its gameplay loop. Neon Abyss is the latest roguelike to grab my attention, partially due to how stylish it is, and also because it’s a run-and-gun platformer. Who doesn’t like games like these, right?


Gotta catch ’em all, amirite?

The “hella stylish” part of Neon Abyss starts right after you click on the New Game option. You start off by talking to the smoothest and slickest iteration of Hades I have ever seen, making the James Woods version from Hercules look like a boomer in comparison. You sign a contract and you’re then tasked with exploring the titular Neon Abyss, a place infested with monsters and bosses representing modern interpretations of sins, such as a manifestation of ego in the shape of an Instagram monster. There is also a lobby you can explore before jumping into a new run, which is comprised of a bar with a barmaid you talk to, and a dancefloor with a DJ playing some sick beats. Before you ask, yes, your character can actually dance to those beats.

The gameplay isn’t half-bad either. This is a run-and-gun platformer not unlike Contra or Metal Slug, but with godsend of an improvement that is being able to aim and shoot with the right analog stick. This is actually the only way you attack, as even close-quarters melee attacks are delivered with the right stick. You jump with the left trigger, perform special attacks with the right trigger, and interact with the environment with the the other right shoulder button. It’s a bit confusing at first, but you’ll quickly get used to the button placement.


Don’t be fooled by the amazing visuals in this picture, this boss battle was running at around twelve frames per second at best.

Once you start a new run, you’re thrown into a randomly generated dungeon. Your task is to explore it until you find and kill its boss, as this is the only way you’ll be able to progress to the next level. Each dungeon will feature some sort of simple platforming puzzle, as well as some doors that can only be opened by spending keys or crystals, both of which can be obtained by killing enemies and opening chests. You can also visit a shop in each level to spend money obtained by killing the same foes, as well as destroying crates and pots.

One of the best things about Neon Abyss is its upgrade system. The game just keeps flooding you with new weapons and perks until you become way too overpowered, to the point that bosses become menial fodder. You can often get one or two upgrades for your weapon in which level, which can actually be stacked on top of each other.

You can also obtain eggs that can be hatched by filling up a small meter on the right bottom side of the screen. If you’ve guessed that you fill said meter up by killing monsters, you’re right. These eggs will provide you with small monsters that will follow you around and act as extra firepower against foes. Sometimes, they will actually act as defensive allies, orbiting your character and absorbing incoming bullets. Overall, Neon Abyss‘ gameplay is great… until it isn’t.


“So… rough day?”

There is one humongous problem in Neon Abyss: its framerate. For the most part, it’s actually very stable, peaking at a smooth 60fps. Whenever there are too many enemies onscreen, you’ll notice small framerate drops, which aren’t exactly dealbreakers, but still annoying nonetheless. The problem lies whenever you fight bosses. These are often big showcases against a huge monster that floods the screen with bullets and particles effects you have to avoid at all costs. More often than not, these battles would make the framerate skyrocket to single digits, and that’s not an exaggeration. It felt like the game was about to crash back to the Switch’s main menu.

Suffice to say, the framerate would completely impact the overall gameplay, and that resulted in many unfair deaths not due to my inability to defeat the boss, but because the game itself would do its best to give me a hard time with its bad performance. I don’t think there’s anything more infuriating than losing all of your equipment, perks, and upgrades, all because the game couldn’t handle the framerate during its most crucial sections. Remember, it’s a roguelike, so once you die, tough luck, you lose everything and go back to the main lobby, although you can acquire passive upgrades for later runs with tokens obtained after killing bosses.


This the 68762874612489th Thor reference in a game this generation.

No, Neon Abyss is definitely not a bad game. In fact, even in its current state, it’s actually quite good and I’d easily recommend it to Switch owners. But this is a perfect case of wasted potential. It could have been so much better if it wasn’t for the infuriating framerate issues that ruined way more runs than I can possibly remember. I am pretty sure the developers will eventually patch things up, but as of right now, Neon Abyss is a stylish run-and-gun roguelike that will infuriate you not because of its difficulty, but because of its performance issues. Give it some time to be patched up, then pick it up.


Graphics: 7.0

The game looks pretty neat, with some great animations and character designs, even though the it can look quite repetitive after a while. The performance is hindered by some abysmal framerate drops during boss battles.

Gameplay: 7.0

The button placement is quite weird at first, but you’ll quickly get used to it. Although the run-and-gun gameplay is quite good, the unacceptable framerate drops during boss battles resulted in some unfair deaths.

Sound: 8.5

Just like the rest of the game, the soundtrack oozes style. It’s a compilation of electronic tunes that fit in perfectly with whichever segment of the game you’re currently at, be it a boss battle or the DJ concert outside of the dungeons.

Fun Factor: 7.5

It all boils down to the framerate issues. Neon Abyss is really stylish, and its upgrade system turns you into a god of death after a while, but being killed by a boss because the framerate messed with your run ended up being a frustratingly occurring issue.

Final Verdict: 7.5

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

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Neon Abyss was provided by the publisher.