Neurodeck: Psychological Deckbuilder is the first game from developer TavroxGames. This small studio has around 8 people working on the game. It will be released on the 18th of March on PC and Nintendo Switch. Join us for the Neurodeck review to find out about this brand new videogame.
The game Neurodeck is a deckbuilding roguelike. You go into each run with your default deck and have to improve it during your journey. There are many opportunities to add, upgrade and remove cards from the deck. If you use your resources wisely, you will be able to beat the boss.
In Neurodeck You Fight for Your Sanity
Neurodeck has quite a unique theme and art direction. It’s definitely one of the strengths of the game. In this deckbuilder you won’t be clearing dungeons, or saving worlds. All you save is yourself and your sanity. You go into each game facing your deepest phobias. You can defeat them with your deck that consists of daily activities, and happy items.
A Well Defined Art Direction
The game has a really specific art style. Phobias you face look quite scary and terroristic. I can only imagine they would look like that if they embodied real creatures. Not only do enemies have great design, but the animation is also top-notch as well.
Enemies will correspond to the attacks they are doing. They will change shape and color depending on what’s happening. The atmosphere of the whole game is very eerie. Scary creatures, dark backdrops, and smooth animations make it a rounded-out aesthetic.
Characters and ‘Classes’
The gameplay itself will be very similar to anyone who has ever played deckbuilding roguelike games. I’m very tempted to throw in some comparisons with Slay the Spire, but I think it would be unfair to put this game into the ring with the king of single-player deckbuilder games.
You can choose from two characters in this game. The choice of character defines what kind of cards you will be able to get and introduces different mechanics for the two. One of them can draw more cards at will, while the other will gather meditation points to take an extra turn.
Within the 2 playable characters, there are also 3 emotions each. These emotions are like sub-classes. They control your passive ability and have emotion-specific cards. This means that each combination will play a little bit differently. Of course, there are ‘neutral’ cards, shared between emotions, however, there are no cards shared between characters.
Resources at Your Disposal
To combat each enemy and creature you have 3 resources at your disposal. Your health is called ‘Sanity’ in this game, which represents your mental health. If you lose it all, you will faint and have to start over.
Then you have ‘stamina’. This is the resource used to play cards. Each turn you are going to recover some stamina, however not all. You have to plan your turns carefully to make sure you can play what you want to play.
Your last resource is ‘action’. Everything you do costs one action. Each turn you get three actions. Some of the cards will give you extra ones as well. These three are the main resources that you will have to manage in order to win the game.
A Typical Run
Each run you will start with a very basic deck, depending on the character and emotion combination that you pick. Unfortunately, during the run, there are no paths to take. Although there are multiple choices on each step and they are always randomized, there is no consequence of choosing one over another. You can’t lock yourself onto a bad path, because you go for the best rewards.
The structure is very simple. You will fight a phobia, then you have two question mark tiles. After that, you fight the next monster, and the pattern repeats. One of the things I don’t like is choosing your opponent. You will have two options, but both are revealed. This means that you can choose exactly who you want to fight. It takes out some RNG from the game, and in turn, makes it easier.
For the question marks, there are quite a few possibilities. You will either get two or three options to choose from. You have simple ones like, remove a card, upgrade a card or add a card to your deck. The more interesting options are the ones where you unlock cards for your next runs or unlock a passive ability for the remainder of the current run. You can equip a total of 3 passive abilities and they can make your life easier. As long as you don’t have all three, ALWAYS go for the passive ability. There is also one reward where you will raise your permanent stats (Sanity or Stamina) and one where you get a nice buff for your next fight.
Overall the system is quite simple and easy to grasp. I think due to the fact that you can choose which phobia to face it’s on the easier side. Now, I love deckbuilders so I may be at a slight advantage here. However, I beat the game on my first run. This is without knowing much about the game. After I got more familiar, I could streamline my deck better and get some easy wins.
You can make your runs harder after each win. Each one of your wins unlocks a ‘resilience’ level, which will add extra difficulty. These are very useful in terms of replayability.
Of Monsters and Cards
Let’s talk a little bit about enemy design in the game. I’ve already mentioned that the art style and aesthetic for the phobias are awesome. However, I do have some problems with the number of opponents you can face. In my opinion, there are not enough phobias in the game, and you will face the same ones over and over again. This is especially true if you are going for the win. When you know you can beat one phobia, but the other would be more challenging, there is no reason to pick the hard one. This comes from the already highlighted issue, that you know exactly what you will face.
Phobia abilities on the other hand are quite good. All of them are different from each other. It does feel like each enemy has its own identity. Depending on your deck you will have an easier time against some of them and a more difficult one against others.
I did feel like the boss was the only real threat during my playthrough. Unfortunately, there is only one bossfight (although there are multiple bosses) at the end of each run. There is no mini-boss type of encounters.
All in all, the enemy design is enjoyable and well thought out. However, I think the quality over quantity measure is taken a little bit more seriously here. Would love to see some more monsters added. It would help replayability a ton.
Now I’ve already mentioned you have cards for a total of six ‘classes’. Then you get your neutral cards that are shared between the classes, but not the characters. Each class has some special synergy that you can build on.
Unfortunately, these synergies are not very strong. They are there and you can, and should build the deck around it, however, the effect is not that well defined. The bonus for having great synergy is small. Due to this, I’ve usually built very thin decks (around 10-12 cards) with a well-defined strategy. They work very well and could get me some easy wins. Would love to see some more synergies in the otherwise well-defined and intelligent card design.
As already mentioned, the game has ‘resilience’ levels. These make it harder after each run. You will be able to increase the challenge to keep playing. Also, you will start with just one character and one emotion. The others unlock one by one after each win. This means that there are at least a couple of wins, that you will need to get before you even have everything.
The game is actually pretty fun, so that should not be stopping you from playing. The only issue I can see is enemy variety. There are enough cards and ‘classes’ to keep things interesting, however, facing the same phobias over and over can get a little bit repetitive.
Please keep in mind that my review copy is an early build. According to the devs, most of the bugs will be fixed for release. I will try the game after the official release patch and update this section. Take everything below with a grain of salt. However, if concerned you can wait until the update from me.
Unfortunately, I’ve encountered some small, but rather annoying bugs during my playthroughs. Almost all of them were visual and UI-related problems. At one time I’ve encountered a situation with the ‘Bath Tub’ card, that on the reward screen the description is totally different from the ingame version.
Another one is a problem with the progression bar at the top. Seemingly it didn’t want to move from the ‘default’ view, although my character progressed through the steps. Due to this, I was unaware of where I actually stand in terms of progress.
One more really weird one is the main menu option of ‘Mental Challenges’. First of all, I do not see this button if I don’t have an active run. However, if I quite a run in progress, this button will appear on the main menu. Inside the option, there are a number of one-time challenges that will make you think on your feet. These would do good for replayability, however, it seems like there is a problem with accessing them. Sadly I have discovered another problem: the challenge will take whichever character you are currently using. This is an issue because on the selection screen it shows which character the challenge is designed for, and might be too easy or nearly impossible with the other one.
Neurodeck is an awesome achievement as a first game. The aesthetic and style are definitely the strong points here. Gameplay-wise, you get a pretty usual deckbuilder, with a fun overall experience.
The two issues I experienced are difficulty and replayability. Even though I am an experienced gamer, I did not expect to beat it the first time around. Due to this, I think this game is more tailored towards people who are just starting out with the deckbuilding genre. For them, this might just be the perfect game to start.
As per the issues and bugs, hopefully the development team manages to overcome them for release.
The game will cost 11.99€. For this you are getting an well designed and fun deckbuilder. Although, it’s definitely not as challanging as something like Slay the Spire or Monster train, it gradually gets harder after each win.
For those who are just getting into the genre, this is a perfect fit, due to the easier time they will have with it. If you are into the art style or the theme, then you will surely have fun with the purchase. I personally had fun during my time playing.
The game is definitely entertaining and has a place within the indie landscape. We welcome TavroxGames as a developer with a solid first entry into the world of gaming.
- Great Aesthetic
- Awesome ‘Phobia’ Design
- Core Gameplay is Good
- Limited Enemy Variety
- Sometimes Too Easy
It will be available for purchase on the 18th at the official Steam Page for PC and the Nintendo Store for the Switch.
This review was conducted for the PC version