How Neurodeck Made Me Like Deckbuilding Again 2021


Key Takeaways

Neurodeck is a deckbuilder focused on phobias and fighting fear.The game blends a lot of the same mechanics that made other deckbuilders fun, while also adding its own spice to the formula.While enjoyable, the replayibility is low, and you'll probably find yourself looking for another game to play after five or six good runs. TavoxGames

Neurodeck is a refreshing take on the deckbuilding genre, foregoing the realms of fantasy as it takes you deep within the human mind to fight the most crippling enemy of all—your own fears.

With the rise of digital collectible card games like Hearthstone and Magic the Gathering, we've seen a subgenre rising as well; deckbuilders. While often single player games, many deckbuilders try to pull you in with promises of deep stories to explore and even deeper pools of cards to pull from.

Neurodeck is a good reminder that sometimes less can be more, and that the human mind still has plenty of stories to tell without transporting us to lands far, far away.

The premise in Neurodeck isn't hard to understand. There are no twisting political storylines to follow, or tons of characters with unique skills and power-ups to orient yourself with.

Instead, you take on the role of a few simple characters, who much then travel deep into the recesses of their own minds to face off against their greatest fears. The game also does away with the complicated process of building your first deck, instead starting you off with a set of cards based on the emotion you choose to play through.

"If you enjoy deckbuilders, but you've grown tired of all the complicated storylines and multiplayer components, then Neurodeck has a lot to offer."

Exploring Fear and Other Emotions

Neurodeck doesn't really have much of a story—that is, not the traditional kind at least. Instead of a main plot to follow, the game focuses heavily on facing down different "bosses," which come in the fear of phobias, all inspired by real-life fears people struggle with every day. 

It might sound too simple to be engrossing, but there's a different level of depth for each phobia you must face off against throughout each run.

Blenno enemies—inspired by blennophobia, the fear of slime or spit—can spit onto you, raising your character's Anxiety. This places a negative debuff on you, which then whittles away at your Sanity—which acts as your health in Neurodeck. 

Other enemies like Haptophobia, based around the fear of being touched, can lock your cards, making it so that you can't use them. It's an interesting way to make each enemy feel unique while also bringing some awareness to the different phobias that people deal with every day. 

It's a novel way to design the game's enemies, while also tapping into real life situations. Each encounter also features its own unique animations, many of which help to drive a chill down your spine, further playing on the game's focus around fear.

The Greatest Form of Flattery

Neurodeck takes a lot of inspiration from popular deckbuilding games, like Slay the Spire, and it shows. From the way you progress through each run, coming across different paths, to the deckbuilding mechanics that allow you to add more cards to your deck as you play.

It's not a bad thing. Slay the Spire was perhaps one of my favorite deckbuilders when it released, so it's good to see other developers taking the same approaches and building off of them. 

Where it has learned from others, it also takes its own approaches. Being able to experience deckbuilding in a way that doesn't focus on magic moves or fantasy lands was very refreshing.

The game is also a great learning device—whether that's intentional or not I'm unsure—and can teach you a lot about fear and the different types of fear that people have to deal with.

It also approaches things realistically, offering cards for things like a stress ball and even biting your nails, all things that people will use to help take their mind off the things that scare them.

The only real disappointment I had when playing Neurodeck was that each run felt pretty similar. You'll fight most of the same phobias over over again, and while the strategies might change up a bit, the battles usually all play out mostly the same.

"Neurodeck doesn't really have much of a story—that is, not the traditional kind at least."

I'd have loved to see a bit more replayability in there, especially given how much the game already leans on mechanics it picked up from other successful deckbuilders.

If you enjoy deckbuilders, but you've grown tired of all the complicated storylines and multiplayer components, then Neurodeck has a lot to offer.

If you're looking for something with multiplayer support or a large amount of replaybility, then you're going to want to look elsewhere.