Cyber Protocol – Review
Follow Genre: Arcade puzzle game
Developer: Reddeer Games
Publisher: Reddeer Games
Platform: Switch
Tested on: Switch

Cyber Protocol – Review

Site Score
7.0
Good: Fantastic soundtrack
Bad: Co-op mode is lackluster
User Score
9.3
(3 votes)
Click to vote
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Rating: 9.3/10 (3 votes cast)

Reddeer Games’ arcade puzzler Cyber Protocol is out on the Switch and quickly established itself as an interesting addition to the library of Nintendo’s hybrid console. The game is a veritable smorgasbord of 80s inspired cyberpunk that should appeal to a lot of people simply because of the sounds and sights it brings to the table. How does Cyber Protocol hold up as a game, however, once you look beyond its sleek neon surface?

Story

Cyber Protocol doesn’t need more than a barely animated, textless introduction to tell its story. It’s set in an 80s interpretation of an unspecified, but dystopian future that immediately brings Blade Runner to mind. An android seemingly drops dead in the streets. It’s up to our protagonist, an unnamed hacker with a cybernetic eye, to reactive the android by remotely hacking into it and executing the cyber protocol. It’s a premise that is deliberately left vague, and it does little more than set the mood, but it doesn’t really need to, as the intro scene’s aim is to establish a style rather than to tell an engaging story.

Graphics

The game’s visual design oozes retro-futuristic charm with its pixelated visuals and neon colors. The faux 80s aesthetic might have become overused in recent times but when it’s executed as masterfully as here, it works really well. There are two distinct styles at work here: in the menu screens and artwork, the game is crisp, with beautiful sprite work that gives the game a sense of coolness. The levels themselves are much more simplistic when it comes to its graphic design, looking like a cross between Pac-Man and TRON. Additionally, a CRT-filter and very subtle fisheye effect are in place as well in the levels, intended to make you feel like you’re playing the game on an old television. This sounds good in theory, but unfortunately, the effect quickly loses its luster and it quickly becomes little more than a distraction.

Sound

We’d be surprised if you haven’t guessed yet what the sound design is like based on the hacker theme and retro visuals: The game fully embraces the 80s vibe and delivers a synthwave soundtrack to accompany the 100 levels. The music choice totally makes sense, of course, more so than using the familiar beeps and boops of a 16-bit game to create the background music. The 16-bit sounds are there, but they’re used as the actual in-game sounds. Everything about the soundscape makes sense, and if you’re a fan of synthwave, the game is worth taking a look at just for the music tracks. The game’s menu has a music player built-in as well, so if you want to enjoy the tracks without getting frustrated with the difficulty of the levels, you can do so at your leisure.

Gameplay

Cyber Protocol is a simple puzzle game at its core. You are tasked with “hacking” your way through each of the levels, by guiding a square avatar through a maze filled with collectibles and obstacles. Some of these obstacles are easily avoided if you plan your moves carefully, but others require quick reflexes to get past. An early game example is an obstacle that stops your square, allowing you to change direction, but you’ll only have a split second to do so before it explodes and kills you. Reach the end of the maze and you receive a score based on what you managed to pick up along the way. This is easier said than done as the levels become progressively more difficult and more and more obstacles find their way into the mazes. In addition, once you move the avatar in a certain direction, it won’t stop until it hits a wall or an obstacle. If you’ve ever played Pokémon Gold, Silver or Crystal, you might remember the Ice Caves. Cyber Protocol plays essentially in the same way as the ice mazes, although the game is much faster and the mazes are far more dangerous to navigate.

The levels are small at first but quickly become so big that you can’t fit the entirety on a single screen, even when zooming out. This means that after a certain point, the game becomes all about trial and error, as you can only plan a few moves ahead, and sometimes you’ll just have to memorize the correct moves as you try to clear a level over and over, progressing ever so slightly before dying again. There are a few checkpoints scattered across the levels but a lot of the time you’ll spend on Cyber Protocol will be spent replaying the same level over and over as you try to figure out how to get that final collectible or avoid an obstacle that’s seemingly impossible to overcome. Make no mistake: the game is very unforgiving and the slightest mistake means death. Fortunately, it also plays very smooth and very fast, with an almost instantaneous restart when you die.

The mazes are sprawling with both coins and bonus tokens. While the coins don’t have any purpose apart from increasing your final score on each level, the bonus tokens unlock cosmetic customization options for the avatar. There’s also a competitive couch co-op mode for up to four players, but it’s essentially the same game and doesn’t add anything. The difficulty of the later levels means that pick-up-and-play multiplayer isn’t really an option unless you start over with the early levels to get your friends familiar with the intricacies of the traps.  

 Conclusion

Cyber Protocol is one of those games where the sum is greater than the parts. It’s a fast, frantic and unforgiving puzzle game that provides a few hours of fun. However, if it wasn’t for the fantastic soundtrack and neon-drenched graphics, it wouldn’t stand out from the crowd. The 80s style might not appeal to everyone and has become overused to the point of becoming a cliché in the last few years, and it’s been misused by several games as well. Fortunately, this is one of the few games that gets it so right that it’s hard not to recommend it based purely on aesthetic.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.3/10 (3 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
Cyber Protocol - Review, 9.3 out of 10 based on 3 ratings
Sebastiaan Raats
Sebastiaan Raats


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