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Neon Blight is a game I was genuinely looking forward to playing. I first noticed it during the Steam Next Fest, where its distinctive cyberpunk art style immediately grasped my attention. The gameplay also appeared to be very reminiscent of Enter the Gungeon, and it was shaping up to be an all-around great time. This is why it’s all the more disappointing that it turned out to be an utterly broken mess.
Neon Blight was developed by newcomers Bleeding Tapes, and published by Freedom Games. Inherently, it is a top-down bullet hell roguelite shooter, but also features shop management undertones. I have a lot I want to say about this title, but to be up front with you, I’d suggest you avoid this game for the time being.
Before we get into the meat and potatoes of this review, I want to highlight the issues I faced while playing Neon Blight. During the first 3 hours of my playthrough, there were a number of instances where my game would freeze, or simply terminate altogether. I stopped making a note after the 15th crash due to the staggering frequency in which they occurred.
Outside of these, I also encountered my fair share of bugs and glitches. Some of these were bizarre, but fundamentally harmless, whereas others were outright gamebreaking. Here is a short list of some of the issues that I experienced:
- Being stuck in various out of bounds areas.
- Being randomly warped to areas of the game I hadn’t yet unlocked.
- Enemies getting stuck in walls, and somehow managing to still successfully attack me.
- AI pathing resulting in characters getting stuck on terrain.
- Customers stealing items that I had put up for sale.
- The entire storefronts cosmetic system being completely broken.
- Placeholder text being used in dialogue boxes.
- Text missing entirely from dialogue boxes.
I’m not sure if this is a curse with cyberpunk themed games, but its honestly baffling that these issues got past the QA department. Though, having worked QA before, it seems as though not much internal testing was done at all. It took me less than 15 minutes to discover the first gamebreaking bug, and that was simply by playing the game normally.
Bleeding Tapes and Freedom Games, the latter of which I have a fairly high opinion of, should be embarrassed calling this a fully fledged release. Nobody would have batted an eye at this if they simply put this out as an early access title. After all, that is exactly what the EA system is setup to do for a product. Alas, it was released as a finished project, and that is both laughable and insulting.
Update: As of this review, Bleeding Tapes have put out a number of updates to try and fix some of the issues. While they have managed to patch out some of the bugs, a lot of them still persist. I was initially going to rate this game a 2/10, but as it stands now I’ve bumped it up to a very generous 3.
The story follows the former police officer Lara in her attempt to start a new life as a gun store owner. However, in order to start her new life, she seemingly has to confront her old one. She decides to become a rogue gunslinger to discover the truth surrounding a mysterious event which transpired 15 years earlier.
Truth be told, the game did a stellar job of piquing my interest. Why did the former cop turn into a gun store clerk? Why did she leave the force to begin with? Who is this mysterious entity that has compelled her into action? I wanted answers to these questions, and I was eager to see how it played out.
Then, unexpectedly, and very awkwardly, the entire story was dropped almost immediately. I honestly have no idea if this was because of a glitch I caused, or if it was a mishap on the developer’s side. Either way, it is yet another example of the abysmally poor state this game is currently in. I hope Bleeding Tapes implement this story properly at some point, as I really do think it has potential.
When I wasn’t experiencing endless crashes, Neon Blight managed to be fairly enjoyable top-down shooter. There are a diverse number of weapons at your disposal, all of which have their own qualities to them. These range from semi-automatic pistols, all the way up to high powered sniper-rifles. They also come in ballistic, energy or plasma variations, which further alter the way they operate.
Running around and dodging out of the way of incoming attacks felt seamless and smooth. However, the speed at which you can move around reduced the games difficulty by a dramatic amount. Outside of one very late game boss, Neon Blight never felt like the bullet hell game it was hyping itself up to be. Unsurprisingly, I lost more progress to crashes than I did to the games challenge level.
Every item you find in the game can be sold in your shop to make a profit. You can use those profits to buy new weapons, upgrades and character buffs when exploring out in the wild. This seems like it would be a nice change of pace, but it never really felt necessary to do at any point in time. On top of this, the management systems aren’t fully functional. Needless to say, this led to even more aggravation on my part.
The art direction of Neon Blight is a partial redeeming factor of the game. The city of Eden for instance has an astonishing amount of detail to it. The luminous neon lights mixed with the bright colours and dark undertones make for a wallpaper-esque spectacle.
Outside of the city, there are a fair number of other locations to explore. These range from forest biomes to winter wonderlands, and even abandoned factories. These locations are effectively the different dungeons in the game. In truth, they are baron and empty. Nevertheless, I’ll give the benefit of the doubt to Bleeding Tapes here, as I suspect this is in an attempt to be less cluttered for the bullet hell gameplay.
The character designs are rather plain and simplistic, but do come across as a nice homage to the pre-NES stylings. Their blown-up counterparts offer a more detailed look at them, though admittedly, most of the designs are somewhat forgettable.
It really is a shame that the game didn’t do more with the dystopian cyberpunk aesthetic. While this thematic is currently the ‘in’ thing to do, it’s clear that Neon Blight could have created a fairly interesting spin on it.
Neon Blight has an pleasantly ambient soundtrack. The composers, which I believe comprise of at least 3 different artists, have managed to create a vibrant 80s synth-based OST, something that is synonymous with the cyberpunk thematic. There are a couple of tracks in the game which sound almost incomplete, but those are, thankfully, pretty sparse.
The SFX are another saving grace for Neon Blight. The guns, which are arguably the most important part to this game, have all been given their own unique sound banks. This allowed things like the ballistic and energy weapons to sound different from one another, all while remaining immersive and punchy.
All in all, the audio and sound design teams genuinely make you feel like your John Wick in his titular series. Unfortunately, the other departments faltered so spectacularly that it feels as though their work has gone to waste.
Neon Blight is an above average game which is currently plagued by countless issues, bugs and crashes. The top-down shooter gameplay, when functioning, is smooth and enjoyable, albeit repetitive. The store management systems are a nice idea, but have been implemented in a very mediocre fashion. While the art style can be absolutely gorgeous at times, it didn’t utilise the cyberpunk aesthetic enough. However, the OST and sound design are genuinely great additions to an otherwise poor game.
Neon Blight could easily be a 6 or possibly 7 out of 10, however, due to its myriad of problems and drawbacks, it barely manages to scratch a 3. Hopefully Bleeding Tapes continue to release patches and get this game where it deserves to be. But for now, I’d strongly recommend avoiding this game until a later date.