Neurodeck is a game with a great premise. It is a journey into the protagonist’s psyche through high stakes battles against their deepest fears. And when I say high stakes I mean it.
Failure is not the end
There is no retry or continuing right where you took your defeat. Once it’s over it is exactly that. Over. You’ll have to build your deck from scratch in each campaign. But that’s exactly what makes it a good deck builder.
Taking a defeat in Neurodeck may feel as such on your first run. But soon you realise that with every failure you become more powerful. You may have lost what you thought was a star studded deck, but every run yields more of a chance for that perfect selection of tools. There is an answer to every situation, and it takes time to fully understand what a scenario might need from you. One phobia may inflict debuffs on you, which requires the spiritual beliefs card to clear debuffs and inflict damage to the phobia for every debuff lost. Another phobia might stack wrath upon itself, boosting its offensive capability. This situation might call for a little anarchy to wipe their buff and offer them a 10HP loss for their trouble.
I was really grateful for the fact that there isn’t some ultra steep learning curve, where I might have needed an almanac just to figure out what was going on. Failure is part of the game, and reinforcing each loss with a tangible sense of understanding as to my shortcomings was great. One could even attribute that logic to life. We might falter and fall, but there is always the chance to try again, in whatever way works. And that next try might be the one that brings success. Especially when we learn from past mistakes.
Face your fears
There are 14 phobias to fight in Neurodeck from agoraphobia to phasmophobia, even masculinity. Battling against them for the first time means you have no idea of their capabilities. You have to face them and beat them to learn what they are and what their weaknesses might be, which comes in clutch when you inevitably fight them again down the line.
This is a great way of introducing them and teaching the player what they are up against. It also proved to be a great way of learning more about the many existing phobias, some of which I was familiar with but never had a name for.
They’re well designed and animated for the most part with some unsettling sounds and sights from many, especially tokophobia, the fear of pregnancy and childbirth. I was drawn to the dark and shadowy figures that these phobias presented. They all brought with them a sense of dread in their designs and movements.
The cards at your disposal
There is a wide array of cards that you have the chance to collect throughout each run of the campaign. And each fits within the framework of mental health. Many cards are in the forms of coping mechanisms, events in life, and real world objects that have carried over into this neural realm such as comfort food and journaling. There is also a christmas day card which grants sanity (HP) and adds two present cards to your deck. This present card has the ability to inflict damage to the phobia, while shuffling another present card into your deck. This card has the added benefit of not using an action point, making it wildly useful.
Each card has their purpose. None felt wasted or pointless, and there was some nice synergy between cards that could make for a powerful deck. Getting your hands on these cards is nice and simple, and there are a good amount of ways to go about it. Defeating a phobia gives you a choice of four cards. But between each battle, you choose between destinations like the kitchen which grants buffs, the bedroom where sleep adds cards or taking surveys to gain traits. Some of these locations may also hold excerpts from the protagonist’s life detailing experiences, memories and dreams that have gained a foothold in their mind.
The surveys grant passive traits like extra sanity when drawing a card, or sanity and stamina whenever a card is discarded. They ask scenario based questions that would categorize you as one of two things, which yield one of two cards. Having only two answers per question was a bit limiting and there were a good couple of instances where neither answer would be accurate for me, but I would resign myself to picking the closest answer. Of course you could outright ignore accuracy in responses just to get the trait you want.
Far from perfect
There were a couple of hiccups and bugs throughout my time with it. Most were UI issues, such as the settings icon being blocked by the scrollbar at times. There was also a problem with text blocking the trait explanation within the traits menu.
The biggest problem for me came from the remove a card option. The ability to remove a card isn’t readily available. It’s one of the destinations you visit between battles. Clicking on the arrow to cycle between cards just removes the current selection. There’s not even an “are you sure” in case of a mistake. You click an arrow to choose the card you want to get rid of and boom, the wrong one is gone. I’ve tried this multiple times, but each instance is the same. At this point I just avoid removing cards, but it would be so useful. Especially if you want to increase the chances of drawing a useful card in an oversaturated deck.
Neurodeck is an enticing deck building game that I found myself looking forward to consistently. With oodles of replayability, different sets of challenges in starting stats and cards, and mental trials there is a lot of content to enjoy.