Force of Habit’s experimental retro-arcade endless shooter, Neon Caves, entered the digital scene with one major issue back in 2014. The developers had built and launched their project on the failed Kickstarter console, OUYA.  

Now in 2019, Neon Caves is able to breath new life with a shot of redemption as it makes its way to Switch in what seems like it’ll be its definitive version. So, without further ado, let’s see how the game plays on the Nintendo console.

Stable Cave, Stable Game

As the dark cavern you reside in is on the brink of collapse, it’s your job to complete two objectives; survive against swarms of enemies and secure or destroy gold shard groups as they appear in waves. Meanwhile, the cave continues to expand in size; forcing you to cover more ground every few moments.

Throughout the fight you will encounter nine unique enemy types: jellyfish, descending spiders, falling rocks, and various sea creatures that all fit in with the game’s underground neon aesthetic.

Every enemy has a different fighting style that you will have to learn to evade or counteract. To help defend yourself, there will be four different collectible power-ups: rapid-fire, bombs, invincibility, and ghost ship. Your hostile enemies are not your biggest obstacle though…

The opponent that will give you the most trouble, however is the mandatory main collectible: gold shards. Collection or destruction of these floating gems is your main objective. No matter how chaotic the action is, these emeralds will always be your priority.

You will have a short amount of time to collect them when they appear. If you do fail to collect a complete group, the neon cave will collapse no matter the circumstances. Its adrenaline rushing time-limited gameplay will constantly keep you on your toes as you zip around as fast as possible.

Neon Caves adapts a simple arcade-like control scheme by placing the player into a joystick-two-button play-style. Using the left analog-stick, you will aim your firing reticle. Press A to shoot and move using your own recoil, and hold ZR to release the anchor that will keep you locked in the air for a short time-span.

Simply put, controls are as responsive as you would want in an arcade shooter. The recoil movement crafts a unique and satisfying play-style that I personally have not seen in any other arcade-inspired game.

Perhaps Too Much Inspiration…

Neon Caves Achievements List

All 28 unlockable achievements in Neon Caves.

Neon Caves seems like the type of game you would find at your local arcade. Gameplay can be addicting and watching friends play in my living room has been an absolute blast. Every round feels new due to inconsistent enemy and object patterns. The game feels exactly as if you were playing on an arcade cabinet.

Some of that inspiration does not always pay off well, however. Neon Caves has its own in-game achievement system, but the lack of an incentive for completing all 28 challenges will most likely push you away from trying them. These one and done assignments do not even provide score bonuses during gameplay.

Players looking to complete all achievements will certainly be greeted with a handful of unique challenges though. By far, my biggest gripe with Neon Caves is its lack of a sound selection. While I do not expect a vast selection of music, hearing the same tune on your television for so long can get rather annoying.

Adding perhaps two or three more tracks to play would have been a good idea. One track is fine for quick fire rounds at an arcade with friends but, in most cases, the same can not be said for the home theater experience.

Switching It Up

I never played the original OUYA version of Neon Caves but, after watching a few videos online of the initial release, there are only three major differences between the two versions of the game that I noticed besides the obvious portability.

By pressing the Y button on the main menu, you can instantly change user profiles rather than having to exit out of the game itself. It’s a neat addition, but an unneeded one. I personally believe most players will never take advantage of this feature despite it working seamlessly.

Arcade type games such as Neon Caves are meant to be fast-paced high-scoring controller swapping competitions; most players will not want to be taken out of the action. 

Neon Caves menu screenshot

Global rank, overall best score, and the ability to change account on the main menu.

While on the topic of highest scores, the second addition to this version of the game is an online leader-board that will rank you on a worldwide scale; based off the number of points you manage to rack up in a single game. Something I personally love of the Switch version is that your highest score and current rank will always be present on the main title page.

The third and by far the greatest added feature is HD Rumble. For those of you who personally enjoy playing with controller rumble features, you will not be disappointed!

Start Spelunking Or Climb Out?

Neon Caves is certainly a welcome addition to the Switch’s rapidly growing digital library, but it is a shame that developer Force of Habit did not take the opportunity to improve and add various aspects of the game such as a built-in record of individual player scores or some form of multiplayer whether that would have been online or couch co-op.

If you love endless arcade shooters as I do, then the $3.99 price tag will certainly be worth your purchase, but the point still stands that the developers missed out on bringing Neon Caves to new heights for this port. You can purchase the game here, only on the Nintendo Switch Eshop.