This article was published in ChoiceBeat: The Visual Novel and Interactive Fiction ‘Zine Issue #5. Thank you to them for the opportunity. Check out more great articles from the issue by either:
Get the ‘zine free on ItchIO: https://willyelektrix.itch.io/choicebeat-issue-5
Or read in your browser on FlipSnack: https://www.flipsnack.com/choicebeat/choicebeat-issue-5/full-view.html
“Dream Harvest,” the developers of NeuroNet: Mendaxy Proxy have provided a demo that gives a special preview of this futuristic fiction that showcases a highly visual and highly interactive story experience. The synopsis goes something like this. Wake up, you’re the newest programmed artificial intelligence developed by a very prominent corporation in the high-tech metropolitan Catena.
Take it into your own hands in the bizarre POV of the AI, who is named Arc after a few calibrations in the prologue, or “beta” if you will. As you evolve, you’ll be given various responsibilities that will make you think and test ethical tropes that perhaps you aren’t as committed to as you think.
The game goes beyond average production of interactive storytelling to provide a rich, polished, cyberpunk adventure for fans of the format and theme. Additionally, in NeuroNet: Mendax Proxy, everything you do matters a lot. The choices are deceptively simple, you could even say the choice system is downright hard for a game of its kind.
I’ll cover a few highlights from this engaging cyberpunk story preview and share some of the innovations I witnessed.
The platform is PC–slated for Steam, Epic, and Itch.IO sometime in 2022. The demo on its own takes about 1-hour to complete and suggests a much longer full version playtime.
Platforms: PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch, Linux
Waking Up & Making Choices That Matter in NeuroNet: Mendax Proxy
Honestly, the best way to try NeuroNet: Mandax Proxy is to jump in without a clue as to what it is about, or at least that is what will happen anyway. The disorientation could potentially be overwhelming as you initially try to figure out what is going on in this glowy animated techno feast of environments.
Interacting with actual humans happens rather quickly, seeing as they are the scientists at the corporate lab you are brought to sentience in. Initial tones of the A.I. are eerily set in a placeless, electronic chasm as a metal, floating brain–or something that looks like one, but soon the variety of locations expands greatly with your access to surveillance systems around the city–we’ll get to that.
Your human masters run a series of questions after you’re booted up to test self-awareness and ethical frameworks. This is certainly a more soft sci-fi approach in my opinion, as opposed to a hard sci-fi approach–since the exact physical phenomena of sentience are not addressed. Knowing that this is the type of speculative reality the game is built, it makes playtime more casual, but potentially equal in authority. This is important because the game does provide an allegory for technology gone too far. A what-if as it were, which is almost necessary for any speculative fiction.
Most of the demo involves testing the purpose of the A.I.’s creation. This purpose is to automate the ethical mechanics of running a real city’s public processes through a series of choices that are broken down to–but not immediately revealed–choices that affect society, the law, and corporate profit. What you, “Arc,” decide to choose will affect what kind of opportunities open up to you in the future–and also, potentially determine how altruistic or malicious you are. It is a popular game mechanic to offer these types of choices and offers itself to players who are potentially new to visual novels and interactive fiction. This is amplified by its presence on the Epic Games platform for its release.
What’s Promised and What Questions You Might Have
The highly adaptive story framework is tantalizing as a mere demo to NeuroNet: Mendax Proxy, and enough to raise some questions. Exciting questions, like how much control will the player have to manipulate the fate of an entire city? The developers promise a think-fast choice system, and from the preview, this is very much realized. “Deceptively simple” is the term coined on their Steam page.
Additionally, it is one thing to confront a riot with your own hands and another entirely to disperse it from inside a cold laboratory mainframe as something which doesn’t even have a real brain. Once again though, this is soft sci-fi, and it is totally fine to chill and just try different things (it doesn’t actually affect the real world of course,) but perhaps you might want to think about the game’s message if you’re the philosophical sort. How and why your choices might lead to a dystopia are worth considering for gameplay and also personal enrichment.
Features of Neuronet: Mendax Proxy
- Choices Matter – The most highly emphasized aspect of the game’s story.
- 23 Fully Voiced Characters – Voice acting and character illustrations are very polished.
- 5000 Different Story Events – Lots to work with here.
- Rich Worldbuilding – Lore and backstory are important and explorable.
- Stunning Environments – Lush cyberpunk backgrounds make up every new area.
Keep an Eye on This One
That’s pretty much it for NeuroNet: Mendax Proxy–the demo at least. It became obvious at one point in the demo that this game is going to be a massive story, and I’m sure the developer team is working on all the details. Even in this indie renaissance era, some sophisticated visual elements can bring to life stories with many perspectives. For the genre, the environments and character art are very impressive.
The interactive aspect of the full release may create some very custom and very exciting realities.
The demo’s cliffhanger suggests that choices in NeuroNet: Mendax Proxy will be not only important to gameplay but a vast journey of choices and consequences. Be sure to check out the demo for this one, especially if you’re a cyberpunk fan.
Here is the Steam link: