Neon White review: Unique shooter is heavenly for speed racers

Neon White Conversation

Neon White is an exciting mix of platforming and fast-paced combat, married to a bizarre but often endearing visual novel.

It’s 1am and I’m still playing Neon White, telling myself I’ll complete “just one more level” before I go to bed. Eventually, around 3am, I finally make good on that promise and lie awake wondering how I would ever run those same levels again.

Not since Hades has a game scratched that itch nicer, and while Neon White shares some similarities with Supergiant’s dungeon-crawling masterpiece, you’re unlikely to find anything that looks or plays like it for very long.


Neon white key details

  • Price: $24.99/£19.99
  • Developer: matrix angel
  • Release date: June 16, 2022
  • Platform: Nintendo Switch, PC

neon white trailer


Divine Comedy

Matrix of Angels/Annapurna Interactive

Neon White characters are flawed and that makes them great.

Neon White puts players in the shoes of, well, Neon White, a former assassin plucked from the rest of existence in Hell and offered a chance to get to Heaven by competing with other sinners for a place there.

It’s the kind of premise that would feel right at home in a high-concept anime, and Neon White wisely leans into that with plenty of character.

White’s competition, all with different color names, offer distinct personalities that begin as gender tropes (‘brother’ Neon Yellow or femme fatale Neon Red) and begin to offer more bits of the story through flashbacks and choices. visual novel style dialog.

Neon White does a great job of developing her characters at the right pace to keep players from jumping straight to the next chapter, and it all takes place against the backdrop of a social caste system between our lovable band of sinners and the cleanest denizens of the world. darling. .

Neon scene, white, yellow and red.
Matrix of Angels/Annapurna Interactive

It can be linked to every sinner.

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The game’s campaign isn’t perfect, with writing at some points that feels as subtle as a brick through a stained glass window, but it raises the eternal question in interesting ways: Can we really leave behind what we’ve done, or will our sins disappear? ? always defines us?

In addition to various areas in the game that allow White to socialize with other characters, including cigar-chewing angel cats (yes, really), players can also deliver the gifts found within quests to gain the favor of the characters. You’ll also earn fun social interactions in exchange for Heavenly Delight tickets, including White’s visit to a movie theater to see The Matrix.

bullet ballet

Enemy Green White Neon
Matrix of Angels/Annapurna Interactive

Enemies are color coded based on the cards they drop.

Between those visits to heaven, you’ll spend your time in small levels working on what essentially involves a sort of demon-slaying obstacle course where the goal is to complete each one as quickly as possible.

These missions can last as little as 20 seconds and your attention will be divided between killing all the demons and reaching the goal through the platforms. The genius is that the two go hand in hand: some demons can take you to higher platforms, while many will drop “cards” that are used as weapons and abilities.

Take the first card you find, for example, which acts like a gun. Naturally, it’s great at killing demons, but its unique “discard” action casts it aside in exchange for a single double jump. It’s not long before White jumps up, discarding a pistol to get to a higher spot and grab another one, and so on.

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Each weapon has its own discard action; from an assault rifle that can be used as a grenade, to an SMG that lets you get down with a stomp attack, or a semi-automatic rifle that doubles as a dash, each has limited ammo that makes moment-to-moment decisions. a central part of the Neon White loop.

neon white sky
Matrix of Angels/Annapurna Interactive

The sky is beautiful, but your journey is also heading elsewhere.

Grenades, stomps, and dash attacks can also open doors, while many levels offer multiple routes. Making use of all the tools at his disposal, plus the way White can move so much faster when he runs on water, means things start to get almost choreographed after a few runs; run here, throw a grenade here to boost yourself, shoot these two enemies, discard for extra height, and so on.

Reboots are instant (at least on PC), and it’s not uncommon to spend a dozen attempts trying to shave a couple of seconds off your time.

Neon White challenges players to break it, and outwit their friends, too, with a leaderboard setting that adds to the “just one more try” allure. Returning to levels also brings its own reward, with ghost data and the gifts you can bring back to your fellow sinners.

There’s really nothing quite like it, with the closest analogy being 2008’s The Club in terms of a score-based shooter, but Neon White keeps things simple with its unerring focus on speed.

If looks could kill

Neon White’s premise of battling demons for a place in ivory-laden heaven lends itself to a beautiful color palette of whites and blues with hints of green. There’s an otherworldly, dreamlike quality to its combination of stairs, waterfalls, and, uh, coal-black demons against pristine white columns.

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The game also runs some risks: White’s current weapon is not shown on screen, except for his “card” in the bottom right. These are color-coded to make them easier to read, but the game adds a stylized HUD component to the bottom left that serves no other purpose than to balance the screen and make it easier to focus on what’s directly in front of you. .

That goes for the soundtrack too, which offers a gleaming synth for a heavenly feel, but with drum and bass loops to offer some edge. The soundtrack doesn’t break between runs either, meaning the more times you attempt a level, the closer you get to a weird form of trigger-happy euphoria.

As a package, it exudes freshness, and even when the levels move away from the safety of its white architecture, it never feels less beautiful.

9/10

Neon White is a stylish and unique title that is sure to be seen by a dedicated community of speed racers and action game fans alike.

It’s unlike anything I’ve played before, and I can’t stop thinking about its lucid yet responsive gameplay, even after playing for hours on end.

Reviewed on PC


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