Oh gosh, it’s Cyber-Lip ($3.99). I was wondering when this game would arrive to SNK and Hamster’s mobile ACA NEOGEO line, and it was tucked in behind last week’s drop of Ninja Master’s and Zupapa. I have some history with this game that I’m sure you’ll all be very fascinated to hear. Don’t worry, I’ll also properly review it along the way. That’s what we do. This is an interesting game in the NEOGEO console’s history, both for what it tried to do and what it failed to do. Ultimately its legacy might just be as a herald of greatness to come. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves.
I still remember the first time I saw Cyber-Lip, because it was also the first time I saw a NEOGEO MVS cabinet. It was 1990, I was eleven years old, and I was over at my friend’s house for the weekend as I tended to be in those days. He lived over on the other side of town, the side of the town that frankly didn’t have a whole lot around besides houses. I’ll tell you what it did have, though: R & S Video. Run by a couple named Rod and Sheila, this place was one of the coolest locations in my boring-butt hometown. That was down to Rod being an absolute man-child and Sheila putting up with him as long as the money came in. Rod was a barely functioning alcoholic, a complete burn-out, and one of the more unique fellows I’ve ever known. He’s not with us anymore, and hasn’t been for a very long time. He tried to drink himself to death and he ended up being successful. But he was a very important part of my life, so cheers to him wherever he may be.
R & S Video was in the main a video rental shop, back when such things were a license to print money. They sold snacks, they rented VHS tapes and NES games, and they even sold saucy magazines. One of the few locations for that in my town, I’ll hasten to add. Slowly but surely, however, Rod’s other interests seeped in. Music, especially metal. Stereo equipment. Import game machines; I first played the Super Famicom via R & S Video, renting it for $27 for one night. But best of all, arcade games. Up until R & S Video opened, there were very few choices for arcade games in my town. There was The Pool Hall, where good kids were not allowed. The bad kids who smoked went there, you see. You could also find a few machines here and there in laundromats, the shopping mall, and such.
But man, R & S. Rod knew what was cool and hot and he wanted it in his place. He always had a fine selection of the best games, and when you saw a cabinet in a game magazine with some effusive praise attached to it, you could be sure it would soon arrive at R & S. It’s where I first played Street Fighter II, busting out a Hadouken. It’s where I saw Sub-Zero first rip out a spine, the bass booming throughout the shop as parents shuddered at the screams. And it is where I first encountered the NEOGEO, its own sound system being no slouch. Four games in one cabinet, and being a good Contra-loving lad my eyes were drawn to one in particular: Cyber-Lip.
I have to admit that at the time, and for a while after until an issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly corrected, I thought the game’s name was Cyber-Up. That’s how it looked in the logo on the title screen, and Lip? Why Lip? It turns out, the big bad is a giant mouth. Yeah, that’s a thing. But wow, it was so colorful and detailed. The characters talked! Look out below! Ha. When you shot enemies, they broke apart into pieces. The bosses were big! You could grab onto overhanging bars and shoot at enemies below you! When you died, your guy came back on some kind of wicked rocket sled! Wow, what a game! I’d feed my meager quarters into it when I had the chance to, not make much progress, and then think about it until the next time I got to play it. Cyber-Up! Lip! Whatever! Now this is the power of the NEOGEO!
Cyber-Lip isn’t very good. It’s a very plain run-and-gun action game that has a decent but not spectacular presentation. It’s a far stiffer game than any of the good Contra games, and it’s a lot less inspired. It feels like half of the game involves popping out of an elevator and going through a slight remix of the same gunky sewer. The boss patterns are bland, but when the game decides to kill you it probably will. Some of the power-ups are enjoyable to use, but some of them like the grenade will put you in mortal danger if you’re flying solo. It has its moments to be sure, but even comparing it to Contra III: The Alien Wars on the Super NES lays bare its numerous failings.
The team that made Cyber-Lip would soon get up to much more important things. The key members went on to make Fatal Fury, and that went over somewhat better. The director of the game, after a solid tenure at SNK, left and joined DIMPS, where he worked on things like The Rumble Fish. None of the people involved with this game had anything to do with Metal Slug, which is a natural comparison given it is the other Contra-style run-and-gun on the system. Sure, five years separate the two and perhaps it isn’t fair to put them against each other as a result. But one can’t help but look at Metal Slug and think that it does what Cyber-Lip wanted to do, only infinitely better. We can shoot diagonally. We have the technology. If you’re going to play a NEOGEO run-and-gun action game, Metal Slug has five games you should play through before you even think of touching Cyber-Lip.
But right here, right now, in this mobile ACA NEOGEO context, I think I can give Cyber-Lip a light recommendation. Its lack of diagonal shooting makes it a bit easier to play with touch controls, assuming you aren’t using an external controller. If you get bored you can always make a save state and come back later. You probably won’t be able to play with a second player, but you can still have a decent time on your own. And I think the ending alone might be worth the price of admission here. Sixteen quarters for that kind of bonkers closing, one that was never followed up on at all? That seems pretty fair to me.
Cyber-Lip was sometimes used on good ol’ Nick Arcade for one of the game challenges. Kids would have to try to get the best score they could within a certain amount of time. You know, it’s not a bad score attack game. As usual, ACA NEOGEO has modes and leaderboards to support that. There are online leaderboards for the main mode, and you’ve also got a Score Attack and timed Caravan mode in case you really want to live out your fantasy of being called down by Phil Moore. There are better genres for this kind of thing, but it works better here than it does in, say, fighting games.
The usual ACA NEOGEO stuff. You get all the usual options and extras, include gameplay settings, video and audio options, and control customizations. You can play with an external controller if you like, or you can use touch controls. They’re not perfect, but you’ve got endless coins. Multiplayer requires enough controllers for all and a display to huddle around. The emulation is spot-on, but Cyber-Lip never taxed the NEOGEO much to begin with anyway.
If you enjoy run-and-gun action games and have tapped out the Metal Slug series on mobile, I think Cyber-Lip is worth the asking price. It’s not a great game and if I had paid a couple hundred bucks for a NEOGEO cartridge back in the day I don’t think I would have been very impressed, but for four bucks on mobile it offers more than enough thrills and weird things to shoot to make it worth your while. Just keep in mind this was a very early game on the system, and that the designers really couldn’t think of any better way to link stages other than an elevator. Also, never pick up the grenades, unless you want to be a goner. Cyber-Lip: it’s great, it’s bad, it’s fine. Evolution, friends.