Switch version tested
Review code provided
Spiritual successors more often than not fail to live up to the standard set by its predecessors. There are times, however, that a new take on an old formula is just what is needed to revive classic. So can Synaptic Drive, from Custom Robo creator Kouji Kenjou, bring fans back for more arena-based shooter action?
Developer Thousand Games with the publishing assist from Yunuo is a fast-paced arena shooter wherein two combatants battle it out for galactic supremacy. Well, the prize is made up, to be fair there really is no need for a story for this genre. Players are tasked with selecting their base character from an assortment of “mechs” based on cyborgs, mutants, and 90’s muscle bros as they battle to unlock new weapons, wires, and abilities.
There is no lack of depth here. Each “mech” features near-limitless (yes there is a finite number but you get the point) assortment or options to create a custom loadout that not only fits your preferred playstyle but also to counter opponents that become rivals over repeated battles… hopefully.
Control-wise, Synaptic Drive nails the formula set forth before it. Everything is responsive and snappy which fits the frantic and frenetic pace of the game. Given your main projectile attack and melee players quickly find that all-out assault is hardly ever the right course of action. Given a dash and configurable jump boosters players will be dodging incoming missiles and dashing to safety behind walls and destructible set pieces. The aforementioned wire is easily a staff favourite. Customisable as well, this wire mechanic emits a secondary linear attack that can be triggered to explode or left to detonate on its own. This mechanic adds an amazing level of strategy to the arena, creating choke points for your adversary to better enact your will. This added with secondary seeker attack and no battle will ever play out the same.
Visually, SD proves to be up to the challenge. Everything is clean and crisp. The developers should be commended for understanding exactly what was needed and refraining from the overabundance of particle effects and flashy buzz words that bog down engines. Each character is unique (a few palette swaps on androids) and stands out against the futuristic metallic settings that are the makeup of the arenas all cast in a digital world.
Similarly, the sound is on point with the subject. Driving guitars with just enough industrial flair are solid a companion in this digital orchestra of death. While the grunts and groans are filler the never-ending explosive mayhem drown it out leaving your ears satisfied.
This is 100% a multiplayer game. There are offline options but in all honesty, competing against the AI can only take you so far. The Custom Robo series saw its peak well before the console rise of online multiplayer. This meant that couch coop was king. Battling friends in a never-ending cycle of the winner stays on with buddies in dorms was a blast. Synaptic Drive has all the components in place to achieve this. Have a few friends nearby (even in quarantine)? Synaptic Drive is an excellent change of pace that will harken back to the days of old. The online component, however… we don’t know. During our time with the title, we were unable to achieve a single online match. This inability to form an online community cuts the legs off quicker than a King Arthur Black Knight duel.
In the end, Synaptic Drive is a worthy successor to the Custom Robo crown. The near-endless customisation and snappy controls form a solid foundation for what is ultimately a fun game. Unfortunately, the lack of a reliable online option really kneecaps this title for anyone looking for long-lasting fun.
TBG Score: 7/10
Platform: PC, Nintendo
Release Date: 28/05/2020
No. of Players: 1-4
Category: Action, Shooter
Developer: Thousand Games
Publisher: YUNUO GAMES
Download link: eShop