OpinionVideo Games

Blake the Black Market Salesnake Makes Gambling a Thrill in Neon Echo

Neon Echo Xinyuan Studio I love Blake Blacksnake merchant black market sales snake salesnake

Chinese sidescrolling roguelite Neon Echo adds its own whimsical notes to ideas from the best in the genre. Right from records that grant elemental abilities to its relationship-based keepsake system, the game draws from Hades’ refined take on interwoven roguelike systems. But its anime aesthetic and eye-searing vibrancy set it apart from other established roguelike titles. Pair its visuals with thumping EDM music and stylized menus, and it’s not hard to see that Neon Echo nails its visual presentation.

Roguelikes keep things interesting by shuffling their cards before letting you pick. It’s no surprise then that Neon Echo adopts a similar approach. But instead of hiding it behind smoke and mirrors, it presents to you Blake’s shop. While you won’t encounter it on every run, it’s definitely worth stopping by if you do. Run by a black market salesnake named Blake, this questionable character puts your fate in your hands. He’s a Blacksnake merchant, and while that might not mean that he’s biologically a snake, his tail raised my suspicions. I can’t tell if his little rat ears are real, so I think of him as a snake with limbs. Either way, his jade-tipped tail, prosthetic arm, and oversized hoodie look like he means business.

Find his gacha shack on a run and you’ll get to pick from one of six plastic eggs. Unsurprisingly, their design is reminiscent of the little toy globes dispensed by vending machines across Japan. Its contents range from powerful buffs and heals to debuffs that become sidequests to be removed. The best part? You either pay in coins or in blood.

Neon Echo Xinyuan Studio I love Blake Blacksnake merchant black market sales snake salesnake

Image captured by the author

While the first egg is free, Blake takes a 15% cut of your health for subsequent eggs. It’s not an easy decision, especially since health pickups are hard to come by. There’s no telling when the shop will show up. Once, Blake showed up early on in my run when I only had pocket change to spare. Blood was the only feasible option for payment. I decided to risk it and placed my hopes on finding a med pack later on.

To my horror, I got a 30% drop in movement speed that I had to remove by defeating 30 enemies. In a game built around dodges and speed for survival, this was concerning. It was somewhat alleviated by the large med-pack that the second egg offered up. On top of that, the electric record skill I recovered from the third egg pulled its weight across my entire run.

The chibi blade master, one of three playable characters, has a combo-based attack and a skill that hits harder if you strike to the beat. Deal enough damage and you’ll fill two attack meters that grant you a variation skill and a time-bending ultimate known as Neonization. I needed all my wits to take that 30% reduction in movement speed off, but a few stages later, my gamble had paid off. My electric skill worked well with the subsequent elemental skills I had picked up, turning me into an electric whirlwind that literally left fire trails on impact.

Neon Echo Xinyuan Studio I love Blake Blacksnake merchant black market sales snake salesnake

Image captured by the author

The game’s array of special effects is dazzling to behold, and nailing your build is an incredible sensation worth pursuing across runs. And that’s before the game’s multiple upgrade systems come into play. Narrative-wise, there’s not a lot going on.

While gorgeous anime portraits round out Neon Echo’s dialogue and cutscenes, they only give you just enough context to point your sword at something. But iffy voice acting aside, Neon Echo’s brand of excess had me hooked. Its gripping combat, adaptable on the fly, chained me to the “one more round” syndrome not uncommon in the genre. This is one audiovisual extravaganza you don’t want to miss.

About the author

Antony Terence
Once an engineer responsible for steel plant equipment, Antony now writes on everything from games and consumer tech to fiction. From watching his dad set up a PC to actively following gaming right from school, it’s no surprise that Antony wanted to write about games. He’s had three fulfilling years as a freelance journalist to preach about humanity’s greatest artform: videogames. Antony has worked on everything from news and deep dives to opinions, reviews and retrospectives for IGN, Techradar, Rock Paper Shotgun, GamesIndustrybiz, and more. He’s drawn to stories, meaning that anime, fantasy novels and games across genres count among his pastimes. While Antony is particularly fond of citybuilders and strategy titles, he won’t turn down a chance to play a JRPG or a turn-based roguelike. As long as it has a story, it’s fair game. When he isn't rediscovering his love for retro strategy titles, you'll find Antony at tech stores or board game cafes.