Twin sticks and six shooters never felt so good
Rogue Games’ & David Marquardt Studios’ Dust & Neon is a game that is easy to explain when we’re talking about the details of what’s going on, but feels like it’s impossible to explain just WHY it is as good as it is. Labeling it an isometric twin stick looter shooter and rogue-like just simply doesn’t do it any justice. It goes far beyond that.
We play as a robot cowboy blasting away other robots at the behest of one of the absolute craziest mad scientist characters we’ve met in years. The gameplay loop consists of entering a zone, completing an objective or series of objectives and leveling up to a point where a boss character challenges us. The way the game drops us in forces us to be deliberate about our choices and adds substance to just about everything. For instance it’s up to us to find or buy weapons that suit our preferred style, and hope to the Lord up above that we can pull off this next mission, because when we die we lose everything. It’s a sickening feeling. In one situation I had a good loadout going and the area’s boss killed me; I lost it all. It was like a kick to the dainties. I had to turn off my Switch and reflect on my choices for a while. But it was worth it — it feels like a rogue-like with weight to each run, not just a slow, eking grind.
It’s a small thing, but the developers somehow even made the weapons mean something. We have to reload every bullet individually like we’re Revolver Ocelot. It creates a sense of adrenaline in the heat of battle that isn’t felt very often in other similar games. And not all the guns are uniform, either. Some hold two bullets, some hold eight. These are things we need to think about when we’re being swarmed by a bunch of rolling robot dudes and, sometimes, we’ll realize we probably should have kept our six shooter instead of going for the pistol that has double the damage but only carries three bullets. But we’ll try that in the next run.
Dust & Neon is a fresh experience in a genre that’s not been this fresh in a while. It puts emphasis and weight on details and elevates them, bringing depth to not only the choices within the game but how we approach it. With great characters and an approachable control method, it brings the feel of loud, bodacious arcade gaming to our hands (it’s perfect on Switch and Steam Deck). Oh, and it helps that it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
This review is based on a Switch eShop code sent to SideQuesting by the publisher. It originally appeared on the February 22nd, 2023 episode of the SideQuest. All images and video courtesy Rogue Games & David Marquardt Studios.