It’s not that I don’t get what Crescent Moon Games, the people behind Neon Shadow, are trying to do. I do, and I appreciate it. As someone who recently replayed the first two DOOM titles to celebrate the month of Halloween – and yes, I am literally that big of a dweeb – I of all people can get behind a 90s FPS revival game ala Painkiller or the Serious Sam series.
It’s not the graphics, either, or the gameplay, or even the (admittedly cheesy) story, either. In fact, I can honestly say that I enjoyed everything about my time with Neon Shadow save for two awful, stinking things: The multiplayer and the controls.
To be fair, one was a lot more awful than the other. I can handle no multiplayer in a game with a good single player campaign, but bad controls can stink a whole title up cover to cover. That’s exactly what happened here.
Fun Story, Almost-Fun Gameplay
I’m a sucker for a good rogue AI story. While Neon Shadow doesn’t necessarily hit the “good” part of that preference, it’s got enough of the other stuff to make me happy. In short, you take the role of a macho-para-military-type-dude with beefy body armor and high firearm proficiency, and your goal is to murder the above-mentioned murderous computer-thing.
The gameplay behind the story follows the same simple-but-amusing formula. Unlike Doom and Duke Nukeum and company, there’s not much in the way of keycard-collecting or puzzle solving here. Your only goal is to find a door on the other side of the level and murder everything in between. While certain events (and I don’t want to spoil anything here) break up the pattern a little bit, you can expect 90% of your gameplay experience to be as meat-and-potatoes as I’ve described.
Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. Given good controls, in fact, it wouldn’t be one at all. I spent my time in the world of Neon Shadow playing the unintended role of a drunkard: Between getting stuck on corners, bashing into walls, and firing awful shots three feet above my enemies’ heads, there wasn’t nearly as much murder as I felt there should have been. And you can’t blame all that on a lack of skill, either. Why? Because I said so.
Almost, Almost, Almost
It’s a shame, too, because – like I said up top – the rest of the game is really solid, at least on the single-player end of things. The graphics are solid, the enemies are varied enough to require real strategy during firefights, and the game certainly has enough of that old-school, hard-as-nails charm so many other titles these days fail to emulate.
Then we have the multiplayer… otherwise known as the mode I didn’t get to play because it didn’t work twice on either of the Android devices in my house. There is some chance that my tablet and phone are to blame, I suppose, but statistics are on my side here. Most of the time, the game simply fails to find a match for me. The rest of the time, it starts to load and fails, then kicks me back to the game’s start screen.
The problem is mitigated by the single-player campaign. That said, I’d probably be a lot more annoyed if I’d purchased the game for my own enjoyment instead of a review. If you’re into multiplayer and you buy the game, try the mode quick to make sure it works for you before the return period’s up.
A Swing and a Whiff
Every positive point in this score is a reflection of how well Neon Shadow does the things it gets right, if that sentence makes sense at all. As a lifelong FPS fan, there’s nothing I’d love more than to see working multiplayer and solid, functional controls that don’t make me feel like I’ve drank about six too many beers. Unfortunately, I don’t… and it’s a real shame.