If you’re reading this, thank you for taking some time off Cyberpunk 2077, which is probably the hottest game at the time of this review. Despite all the wait (and the controversies), I’m curious to see it lives up to the hype or not. Until then, why not take a look with us at a game based on the very beginnings of the cyberpunk genre? I’m talking about Neuromancer.
Neuromancer is an adventure game developed by Interplay and published by Electronic Arts. It was released originally in 1988 for the Commodore 64 and Apple II computers and the following year for the Amiga, Apple IIgs and DOS.
But before taking a look at the game, let’s take a look at the cover:
This is one of the trippiest computer game covers I’ve ever seen, a distorted pixel artwork of some guy wearing goggles. He kind of reminds me of Batou from Ghost in the Shell. And yes, you’ve read that right, the soundtrack (comprising entirely of just one theme) was composed by Devo.
Anyway, it’s time to jack this boot:
The game starts with a pixelated version of the box cover along with a nice rendition of Some Things Never Change by Devo. I know it doesn’t sound very faithful compared with the original, but I think that’s still a nice chiptune by PC Speaker standards.
And although this game is based in William Gibson’s Neuromancer, it isn’t a direct adaptation of. It features an original story, a sort of a sequel, including some of the same locations, concepts and characters. I couldn’t find any information if it’s considered canon or not.
You play as an unnamed (that you can name at the beginning) hacker (or console cowboy, as they’re known in Neuromancer) down on his luck, who must get back on his feet and find out what’s happening to his peers. The game starts in the Chitsubo restaurant (just like in the novel) and I particularly like the UI. It’s composed of the main view and beneath it, a panel with several self-explanatory icons and a white screen on the left where all the location descriptions appear (with some taken directly from the novel). You can control the main character either by mouse or by keyboard (although I prefer the latter).
You can also access the PAX network which has a BBS style message board with news and other services. Later on, you can also jack the Matrix where you can do virtual battles against ICE defences and AIs, using all sort of tools and hacking programs (which you’ll need to acquire and buy). And that’s where the main part of the game consists of, obtaining money to upgrade your equipment and programs so you can hack harder systems to obtain more money to further upgrade your equipment and tools. And to get the money, you need to hack bank accounts and do some missions, but if you’re caught, you’ll be judged and lose part or all of your money (even if you’re sentenced to death). Luckily, you can always go to the Body Shop and pawn organs for money (although it reduces your stamina level). And I also recommend keeping some backup money stored in your bank account in case anything goes wrong.
For that, you need to walk around Chiba City (and beyond) looking for specific ports to plug in and backtrack to interact with several characters. Also, you need to keep an eye on your mailbox and news at the PAX network for messages and how the storyline progresses.
The cyberspace section is perhaps the most interesting section in the game, where you navigate the Matrix battling ICE and AIs. These battles are fought by choosing and using the different programs to break defences and hack your opponent, but he can also do the same to you. When you’re in the Matrix, your UI changes slightly, sporting now a constant heartbeat monitor in the lower-right corner (linked to your stamina level) and if it flatlines, you wake up in the Body Shop with all your money gone (the price to revive you).
The graphics, especially the colour palette, aren’t anything special, with the Matrix’s graphics being their highlight. The animation is also pretty basic as are the sound effects. The music, despite being comprised of only one theme, is quite good, although it tends to pop up during the gameplay seemingly at random times. The controls are quite responsive, although I prefer the keyboard over the mouse.
In conclusion, Neuromancer the game is not bad. Despite the badly aged graphics, animation and sound, the gameplay is solid. There are some backtrack and repetition, but the overall story and atmosphere make for a pleasant cyberpunk experience. The game’s length is also good, mostly due to its somewhat hard difficulty. I won’t deny that I’ve used a walkthrough and I wish the inventory was better organised, but if you’re a cyberpunk fan, then give it a shot.
The Amiga version has better graphics with more colours and better sound, but it’s not very different than the DOS version. I haven’t played any other version, but the Commodore 64 version is probably the most famous version of the game. And if you want to play it in your browser, then click here.
Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed the review and I also hope you’re enjoying Cyberpunk 2077 (or any other game) as well. I won’t be doing any special Christmas review, although I’m going to try doing a small review before the end of the year. If I can’t, let me wish you all Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!