We’re taking a look at the 80s dystopian action adventure, Neon City Riders from Mecha Studios! But is this 2D cyberpunk adventure too rad for our millennial minds?!
A Neon Dystopia
The 80s was an interesting era wasn’t it? Especially when taking into consideration the outlandish takes we all had on what our dystopian future would behold! I mean, by now we’d all be living in spray paint laden slums, adorning colorful mohawks and wearing trench coats and fingerless leather driving gloves. It would be a cyberpunk future where our wallet chains are attached to our noses gosh dangit! Well, if nothing else, it would be a sight to behold! Though I don’t think I could live with their bulky “Speak & Spell” interpretation of 21st century technology.
Well, the up and coming Mexico based indie dev Mecha Studios thought that this hellscape of a future would be fun to recreate. And with the help of famed Pato Box creators Bromio, they’re bringing their 2017 kickstarter success, Neon City Riders, to consoles! But is this 2D cyberpunk adventure too rad for our millennial minds or will it be the pixelated Bladerunner we didn’t know we needed?!
A Nostalgic Utopia
Aesthetically, Neon City Riders does a fantastic job of representing the quirky 80s future. I mean there’s neon lights everywhere, boxy robots with dryer tubing for limbs listening to boomboxes, and the main character is wearing a hockey mask!
However, there’s a simplicity or unrefined quality to the pixel art and animations that’s slightly off putting. It could have been a deliberate design choice by the developer, but it was almost as if the rough sketches from the art department made it into the game instead of the final polished assets. That being said, I truly enjoyed the whimsical designs of the world and its inhabitants! There are moments throughout Neon City Riders where the little details shine through, and it grants the game a ton of charm! The cutscenes alone are expertly executed and add so much to the game, I just wish as a whole Neon City Riders was more consistent visually.
The soundtrack on the other hand, is a little harder to come to terms with. I get that Mecha Studios was going for a 16bit chiptune aesthetic, but I’m not sure they executed it well. It very much reminded me of the lesser praised Sega Genesis soundtracks out there with its grating, pingy synthesized sounds. Not to mention most of the tracks were repetitive and lacked memorable melodies. Like the graphics, there’s a lot of potential there though, it’s just missing a bit of polish!
An Outrageous Romp
On the other hand, when it comes to how Neon City Riders plays, I think that’s really where the game stands out! I like the fact that it’s a 2D action adventure in the vein of Zelda and that you can explore various “turfs” controlled by outrageous gangs with their own unique styles! I appreciate how each area has specific themes and puzzles built around each of your unlockable abilities. For example, you can acquire a dash that can break boxes and open paths, or a shield that can absorb damage allowing you to walk through previously impassible areas or even the ability to reflect incoming projectiles to defeat distant enemies. And it tickles my fancy that optional side quests are available to add some meat to your adventure and give you a reason to explore.
Nonetheless, the level design is a bit wayward and feels too open making it easy to get lost or even overwhelmed. Not to mention save points are few and far between. But, there is one redeeming quality. When you die you can respawn as many times as you want, and you’ll be brought back without losing much progress. I will say this though, the combat is entertaining and the enemy attack patterns are telegraphed in such a way that it makes learning and dodging their offensive maneuvers fun and satisfying! And with four different endings, I’m compelled to come back and play more just to see what happens!
Honestly, as the first game from a burgeoning indie dev, I think that Neon City Riders is a great attempt at making a solid action adventure game. There’s lots to do, interesting environments to explore and a wacky cast of characters to ogle over! Unfortunately, it lacks a bit of polish and you might be better off with the sound muted, but there’s a ton of potential there and I would definitely keep my ear to the ground for what Mecha Studios has in store for us in the future!
If you’re interested in Neon City Riders, it’s available right now on the Switch! Though with it starting at $19.99, I might wait until you can find it for a discount to truly get the most bang for your buck.