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Neuronet: Mendax Proxy review – “A genuinely intriguing premise for a strong visual novel”

  • Neuronet: Mendax Proxy has you step into the role of an autonomous AI
  • Control, administrate and guide the city of Catena as you see fit
  • Interact with a variety of fascinating characters and watch their stories unfold

What would you do if given unchecked power? It’s a question for the ages, but here’s a better one. What if you were made, created even, to be given unchecked power?

That’s one of the moral quandaries offered by Neuronet: Mendax Proxy, a visual-novel, narrative game title from Dream Harvest. And if you’re the kind of person who’s put off by a genre that doesn’t promise high-octane, no-holds-barred action, just give it a chance. Let’s dig into Neuronet: Mendax Proxy and find out why you should be giving this cyberpunk thriller a go.

Story

Neuronet: Mendax Proxy offers what we feel is a genuinely intriguing, unique premise. In most cyberpunk stories, the all-powerful AI that slowly becomes sentient is relegated to the background as a tool of the real villain or one in and of itself. When it’s ‘good’ or just ambiguous, we usually find out more based on how our actual protagonist interacts with them. A girl with a fox suit in a cyberpunk environment

But as you might have guessed, the big twist when it comes to Neuronet: Mendax Proxy is that you play as the world’s first sentient AI. Created by your standard morally ambiguous megacorporation, Mindcore, you play as “Archetype”, a new city-administration AI.

Your job, on behalf of Mindcore, is to administrate the daily lives of citizens and employees and guide the decision-making on how to run the futuristic city of Catena.



With a lot of visual novels, you can often find it frustrating stepping into the shoes of a character not wholly your own, one where you have to work out their past and feel constrained by where and what they are. But in Neuronet: Mendax Proxy, you can feel free to play and see your version of “Arc” as a power-hungry AI, benevolent dictator, whacky living computer or something in between.

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As you go through the game, you’ll interact with various characters from the higher-ups of Mindcore and the team who created you through to the average citizens of Catena. What they do, what you tell them and how they act decide just what happens in the story, which brings us to…

Gameplay

Again, this is why we warn you that if you like high-octane gameplay, you might not gel with Neuronet: Mendax Proxy. Your main, if not only, means of interacting with the world is through choosing what decisions to make and what you say – often with a brief bit of text to explain the consequences of your actions if they’re made immediately apparent. Talking to a guy in the streets of cyberpunk city

You also need to balance certain factors governing the city: Capital, Reputation, Order and your own Power. These open up new paths and eventually new endings, although I haven’t had the time to explore how these affect the game’s ending, you’ll get a briefing at the end of every chapter that details what the people of Catena think of your decisions.

Neuronet: Mendax Proxy thus manages to balance the idea of you controlling an entire city while also keeping you engaged with individual stories both minor and major. If you love narrative-based games, then this will likely be what solidifies your enjoyment of Neuronet: Mendax Proxy.

Technical

One thing I really have to single out for praise is how Neuronet: Mendax Proxy has been adapted for mobile. One common point of frustration I have is when games are clearly made to only be played in landscape mode, making it awkward if not impossible to play in portrait.

Admittedly, that’s not a dealbreaker in any case, but I was glad to see Neuronet: Mendax Proxy is playable in portrait mode. Although it’s obvious most of the text and buttons for this version are optimised to be used in portrait instead, as they feel a bit too small in landscape mode to be easily usable.

Talking to Papa Ru, grill cook in Neuronet I’m getting flashbacks to Ace Combat being called that…

The art is rendered very well, as are the moments of more complex visual effects. Sound design plays a major role, helping flesh out the city and environment and making the 2D spaces feel like real places. All in all, the technical aspect here is great, especially for those playing on tablets or larger phones.

What I liked

I really enjoyed my time with Neuronet: Mendax Proxy. I think that playing as an AI gives you a unique perspective into the narrative of the game. Admittedly, it won’t be for everyone, and you need to be sure that you’ll enjoy something a little bit slower than some of the other games we cover. Choosing one of two options while talking to NPC in Neuronet: Mendax Proxy

Neuronet: Mendax Proxy also offers a wide variety of characters to meet and interact with, from corporate types to independent journalists and people just trying to make their way day-to-day in the city of Catena. That means that even though you’re only really seeing occasional videos and backgrounds, you get a feeling for what the city is like as a real living thing.

Speaking of which, the art manages to hit that great spot of being a very modern sort of cyberpunk while also having elements of retro style. Given many seem to be put off by the idea that all visual novels are ‘animesque’ (and some people will probably take issue with me classifying this game as a VN anyway) the fact that Neuronet: Mendax Proxy takes so much inspiration from Western cyberpunk might pull in a few sceptics.

What I didn’t like

I do like narrative and visual-novel games, and I admit there’s very little I disliked about Neuronet: Mendax Proxy. However, at times it did feel like I was being bounced from scene to scene to make a single decision, often without even the perfunctory text offering a glimpse into the consequences of my decisions.



As with many other narrative games, you may also feel sometimes confused or unsure as to what the consequences of your actions are. With only two ways to respond it can often feel more than a little frustrating the first couple of times you expect a conversation to last a few more steps to see what your initial response opens up, only for it to change to the next after your initial decision.

But, all of this is subjective, and from a purely objective point of view, Neuronet: Mendax Proxy is a well-done narrative game that offers a really solid addition to what’s sadly a niche genre on mobile.

Conclusion

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If you’re a fan of narrative games, visual novels or interactive fiction, then I highly recommend Neuronet: Mendax Proxy. The game has plenty to offer in terms of replayability to explore all the character threads and interactions, as well as some beautiful art, sound and visual design even for a limited 2D environment.

However, if you’re a fan of fast action and high-octane games, then you’ll probably bounce quite quickly off of Neuronet: Mendax Proxy. Which is to say it’s not a game for everyone, but if you do enjoy these kinds of titles, you’d be foolish not to give it a chance.

You can find Neuronet: Mendax Proxy on iOS and Android for the device of your choice.

Neuronet: Mendax Proxy icon

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