HomeReviews4/5 ReviewDust & Neon Review

Dust & Neon Review

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There’s more than a hint of Borderlands about Dust & Neon. There’s some serious Stranger’s Wrath feels too. Ultimately though, Dust & Neon is its own game – and it’s a pretty neat one at that. Just be prepared for some repetition and grind through this top-down, twin-stick shooter. It is a roguelite after all. 

Previously available on PC, mobile and Nintendo Switch, Dust & Neon comes to new-gen Xbox and PlayStation consoles with fancy new features and ideas. And it arrives with aplomb too. It’s slick as hell, giving you the opportunity to take to a sci-fi Wild West world, proving that old-school cowboys have what it takes to keep control over their land. 

dust & neon review 1
Sci-fi rootin’ & tootin’

It’s here where you play as the Gunslinger, created in a lab by the most wacky of scientists. You are seen as his creation, the last bastion of hope in a land that is fast being overrun. Utilising your supreme shooting skills, a ton of weapons and about as many upgrades and skill trees as you could ever want, you need to lay waste to the robotic forces, grabbing bounties as you go.

Dust & Neon takes you through a host of stages, collecting loot and cores, as you fight back against anything that comes your way. Reaching a variety of end goals is your sole aim, before you head back to the lab, regroup, reassign abilities and skills, and go at it again. Eventually, after a bit of rinsing, repeating and the occasional death, you’ll find yourself levelled up enough to take on an end of region boss. Taking them down then continues the tale. The circle being complete. 

Narrative wise and Dust & Neon is lacking. In fact, whilst there is a bit of backstory to the bosses themselves, allowing you to read up on them in the lab, for the most part you’ll be sent headlong into a stage and asked to get on with it.

That’s fine for us, as it lets the twin-sticking elements and constant upgrading to come to the fore. And these are certainly the best moments of what David Marquardt Studios and Rogue Games have produced. 

Stages are never too big that boredom arises, but for the most part they are fairly open, decent affairs with plenty of secrets. Checking out nooks and crannies is key to success in Dust & Neon, if only as it’s there where you’ll start to gather up precious resources; in-game cash, cores and better weapons. Health points should be hunted down as a matter of priority too; especially on any stage or level that is deemed higher than ‘easy’. Dust & Neon certainly knows how to do frantic. 

dust & neon review 2
Stages mix up mission objectives in a good way

Those stages are well created too, ripe for exploration and full of foes. They come in a range of forms; the fast, the slow, the weapon packing, the shielded and more. For the most part, lining up a shot and pulling hard with your itchy trigger finger will sort opponents out, but at times it can be fairly easy to be swarmed. Rolling and sliding out of trouble is then called for; thankfully, old Gunslinger is a fairly nimble sharpshooter who can whizz his way out of trouble. Of course, come up against a boss or two, and you’ll find yourself trying to down fairly sizeable enemy health bars, considering attack patterns and the like. 

The levels and tasks are varied depending on the mission at hand. Whether you head out needing to kill all enemies before your exit portal emerges, or find yourself traipsing across trains, needing to destroy barrels or more, playing through Dust & Neon is really good fun. Yes, there’s some serious familiarity in play and occasionally it does feel like you are rinsing and repeating only in hope of leveling up a bit more, but missions and objectives can be taken down in mere minutes, so it never feels too much of a task.  

And besides, if there was no grind, you’d not be able to work through a variety of skill trees, upgradeable abilities and lab research projects; all of which help make you stronger in both success and failure. Remember, this is a roguelite. 

You’d not get the chance to enjoy the whole range of weapons that are on offer either. Rare, Epic, Legendary and the like, it’s here where Dust & Neon feeds into those Borderlands ideas. There’s no shortage of different revolvers, shotguns or rifles present and correct, each with its own vital statistics. Deciding which is best for a certain scenario, or whether it should be junked for cash, is a key component to the game, particularly so once you start to be met with deaths; weapons lost unless you decide to buy them back. 

dust & neon review 4
Dust & Neon is all about the GUNZ

We’ve found the combat scenarios in Dust & Neon to really excel, flicking from one gun to another, utilising a simple face button press or – less often as we don’t like its actions – a weapon wheel. Making the most of a personal favourite weapon, knowing that it can take down foes from distance, or sneaking in for something more up close and personal is a real highlight. 

Dust & Neon also plays with a unique weapon reload mechanic. It’s here where you find yourself needing to mash a reload button, slamming bullets into chambers, watching your gun refill through a brilliant animation sequence. It’s a whole ton better than the usual simple reloading that many other games run with, and actually manually inserting each bullet, hoping as you try and fill a chamber whilst being overrun, ensures some tense times. And with each and every gun running its own unique stats and ammo capacity, there’s a skill needed as you look to progress. 

We’ve been extremely taken by Dust & Neon. The unique take on a twin-sticking roguelite is an obvious highlight, but so is the visual style, the weapon variety and the level lengths. There’s certainly a test here though and in order to meet the mark, playing through things, failing and trying again is required. And it’s in that in which those roguelite ideas will be seen as a success or failure. We can look beyond them at the rest of Dust & Neon with a positive mindset. 

dust & neon review 3
Close quarters combat

It all comes together to ensure that Dust & Neon is a twin-stick shooter that has something about it. Pretty unique with how it goes about things, the tease of a new upgrade, another notch on a skill tree, or a weapon to best all others, will see you tempted back to this one over and over again. 

You may feel you have to immediately dismiss this classy top-down shooter thanks to the roguelite ideas, but you’ll then be missing out on a cracking little playthrough.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • It’s all about the guns
  • ‘Unique reloading concept
  • Stages are well paced and visually strong
  • Loads of replayability
Cons:
  • But a bit of a grind too
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Rogue Games
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), PS5, Switch, PC
  • Release date and price - 17 August 2023 | £TBC
Neil Watton
Neil Wattonhttps://www.thexboxhub.com/
An Xbox gamer since 2002, I bought the big black box just to play Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee. I have since loved every second of the 360's life and am now just as obsessed with the Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S - mostly with the brilliant indie scene that has come to the fore. Gamertag is neil363, feel free to add me to your list.
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>It’s all about the guns</li> <li>‘Unique reloading concept</li> <li>Stages are well paced and visually strong</li> <li>Loads of replayability</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>But a bit of a grind too</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Rogue Games</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), PS5, Switch, PC <li>Release date and price - 17 August 2023 | £TBC</li> </ul>Dust & Neon Review
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