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  • Writer's pictureRoberto Nieves

Review: Dust & Neon

The wild west is an era of genuine American fantasy. Gunslingers, outlaws, bandits, and the long reach of the law were all attuned to the wild and untamed frontier. It’s an era that seems to be entrenched in a thread of fact and legend. The wild west can be considered an American fantasy with evildoers, heroes, and outlaws caught between the two. It is a tale of guns and rivalries. Stories of power and justice. It’s a Greek mythology that is very American.

Dust & Neon is all about the style and substance of the wild west. Debuting at Pax West 2022 in Seattle, Washington, Rogue Games introduced a unique and fascinating take on the twin-stick shooter and Western genre. It’s been quite a while since I’ve played a good, lean twin-stick shooter. I’m pleased to say that Dust & Neon is an excellent twin-stick shooter and roguelike for the new and experienced.

Lock and Load

Dust & Neon doesn’t necessarily have a story. The wild west has been taken over by power-hungry robots that have an urge to crush the bones of any human. As a cyborg, you’ve got the quick wits of a human but the generousness of a robot. Adopting true grit is the only way to take on this robot army. The enemy has taken over four zones and is run by several bosses. They will not go down so easily. Think like a human and exploit their weakness. Fight like a robot and crush them in a hail of gunfire.

Dust & Neon focuses squarely on the gameplay. Dust & Neon is a twin-stick shooter with roguelike elements. The familiar trapping of roguelikes is present. A home base provides refuge, weapons, and upgradeable attributes. Levels change layout and enemy placement. Various objectives with varying degrees of difficulty appear on the mission selection screen. The big draw (pun intended) is

the twin-stick shooting gameplay.

Twin-Stick madness

Most twin-stick shooters offer various weapons with unlimited ammunition. The skill to win and survive depends on speed and aggression. Other twin-stick shooters like Neurovoider rely on cool-downs for their weapons. In Dust & Neon, the game replications the shooting and gunplay of the wild west. This makes Dust & Neon a slower-paced twin-stick shooter but also more methodical and satisfying in its unique way.

The player’s character moves at a thoughtful pace. Holding the preferred button allows the character to sprint, but slower pacing is essential for survival. When next to certain obstacles, the character automatically takes cover. The enemy robots are no cake walkers and are easily sharpshooters themselves. Cover is essential for surviving gun fights. Holding the trigger button allows players to rise from cover and aim their weapon. The other trigger button naturally allows you to fire the weapon.

Cold Steel and Hot Iron

The final component of the gunplay is reloading. In Dust & Neon, reloading is neither automatic nor quick. In a very clever idea of user interfacing, a corner of the screen shows the weapon being reloaded. The player taps the reload button to reload each round into the weapon. Dust & Neon is a futuristic Western. Players will load rounds into three-barreled shotguns and revolvers that look straight out of a Tex Avery cartoon.

Reloading weapons heightens the sensation of combat and the danger of gunfire. The HD rumble on the Nintendo Switch furthers the sensation of manually loading each round into the weapons. Hearing the click of the weapons and seeing the reload animation complete becomes a matter of time and vulnerability. For those precious moments, an enemy can eliminate the player. This makes reloading a feverish action.

Tools of the Trade

There are three types of weapons in Dust & Neon: Revolvers, shotguns, and rifles. Rifles are excellent for long-range targeting. Shotguns are best for serious firepower at close range. Enemies close in and are programmed to end the player’s run. Victory or death is a balancing act. Players balance between taking precise shots, wild aggression, or keeping their heads down behind cover.

Dust & Neon is a quirky and brilliantly made fast-paced shooter. Reloading and firing are euphoric and heighten both the atmosphere of the game and stakes. Every moment feels like a chance at squeezing off a victory or suffering a punishing defeat. This is most especially true for the game’s boss fights that may require more than one round to finish off. Lasers, explosives, multi-barreled revolvers, it’s all here for maximum enjoyment. Every run is a barrel of fun!

Nuts and Bolts

When a mission succeeds, players build their base for weapons and upgrades. The more they play, the stronger they are when they start their mission. Installing burner chips, in particular, is expensive but can greatly augment abilities to get over the game’s most difficult missions. This makes every run a constant sense of reward and progress, even if there is a painful defeat a the hands of a robot that just had a faster trigger finger.

There’s plenty to keep players busy. Dust & Neon never lets up on fun. Shooting robots and fighting the robot hordes is a constant blast in every sense of the word. A recently released patch also adds more missions and enemy types for players to sweeten the enjoyment. The only gripes I can make here are a lack of a story and the repetitiveness of the action. Otherwise, Dust & Neon is a joy through and through.

Legend of The West

Dust & Neon is excellent. I can’t recommend it enough for players who want a quick twin-stick shooter that is incredible to play and firmly challenging with a sense of reward and progress. There may be many such games, but none of that thrill of reloading the way Dust & Neon does. Add Dust & Neon to your library, whether at home or on the go.

Dust & Neon was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch OLED thanks to a key from Rogue Games

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