Recently I played Fights in Tight Spaces, a card-based game that sees you take on enemies in hand-to-hand combat using abilities you’d picked up along the way. Now, I’m playing something that is almost entirely different, except for the fact it’s another deck building, card-based game called Neurodeck.
Instead of being a highly violent game, Neurodeck tries to be more cerebral experience by having you fight against a selection of common phobias. In your arsenal, you’re given various tactics that you can use in real life to overcome things, like positive thinking, writing in a diary or curling up with a favourite pillow. These actions will do damage to the phobia, and then you’ll eventually beat them. Some phobias are fairly easy to overcome, and some are much trickier, but none are insurmountable, which seems to be the main message that the developers want you to take away. In between fighting phobias, there are various actions you can take to add to your deck, such as sleeping, visiting a classroom or answering a quick survey so the game can get to know you better. You’ll eventually build a fairly decent sized deck and be able to take on all potential phobias that get thrown your way.
The phobias are fairly common ones, arachnophobia, agoraphobia and entomophobia are all present amongst others, and they are all drawn and animated extremely well. Ones like tokophobia – the fear of pregnancy – are extremely creepy with a pregnant deformed silhouette of a woman and her unborn baby attacking you. Others, like haptophobia – the fear of being touched – are much more literal and, while still creepy, are a much more literal embodiment of the fear, in this case, a tall blob with ten hands coming at you. Couple this with the music, which is an odd combination of relaxing and unsettling, and you’ve got a pretty engaging experience.
That being said, Neurodeck does have its flaws, the most glaring being the lack of an obvious story. It may not be a requirement in every game to have a story, but I didn’t really feel at any point after I completed it, like I wanted to revisit it. It probably didn’t help that I’d finished a run without dying once the first time around as well, which made the game seem too easy, and not that interesting. It feels very much like they were trying to appeal to the intellect of the player and using that to entice players to continue, but it missed its target with me – or I’m just too dumb to appreciate it.
The gameplay itself isn’t overly interesting either, despite the wonderful presentation. The attacks don’t have any animations so they do lack a bit of a punch, and some seem like the developers ran out of ideas for “coping strategies” and just plopped in any old thing and hoped for the best. I don’t even really understand why the attacks don’t have animations, the enemies have some terrific, creepy movements when they attack, while the player is stuck with a sound effect that sounds incredibly cheap. The non-card battle parts of the game aren’t all that great either. Some are fairly fun, but others resemble a quiz that you’d get if you were doing a crap Facebook personality quiz, which can be repeated multiple times with the same options.
Neurodeck has some good ideas, but it is disappointing overall. After I played it through and completed it the first time around, I had no real desire to boot it back up and play again. I’m sure, given time, the game will probably improve and I’ll be more compelled to return to it, but right now I think my playthrough gave me more than enough for the time being.