Neon White Review
Ben Esposito has had a long working relationship with Annapurna Interactive. Together they have delved into the bizarre with the likes of Donut County and told touching stories in What Remains of Edith Finch. Looking to take another large step further left field is Neon White, a fast and frantic anime-inspired, first-person speedrunner that combines elements of action with the visual novel genre; but will this strange and alluring amalgamation hit the highs of their previous releases?
You play as White, an assassin from the depths of hell, who participates in a competition to stay in heaven. As demons invade the sacred place, you must slay each one with speed and style to improve your rank and beat your rivals. While White himself suffers from a bout of amnesia, those you encounter have memories of the past. Through conversations, you begin to unravel the narrative which is equal parts hilarious, cringy and intriguing.
Neon White merges genres seamlessly to create a thrilling experience that will keep you hooked. While on the surface it may look like an FPS, it is so much more. Your aim is to sprint through levels in the fastest time possible and annihilate all who stand in your path. To do that you need to take advantage of the game’s unique weapon system which is in the form of a card-based format. As you progress, you’ll collect all manner of guns which you can use in a variety of ways. Each weapon has a standard shot and a discard ability. Both are crucial to master. You can ditch a pistol to double jump, drop a machine gun to throw a bomb and much more. This innovative approach to combat and traversal opens a range of options to make every run a blast.
Each level possesses perfectly placed enemies and platforms that allows you to use all your abilities to zip through at a thunderous pace. While there is room for experimentation, locations of items and foes remain the same which increases the importance of memorization. As areas are small, the game beckons you to replay levels to beat your previous time. With the ghost of your previous attempt flying through the course, this becomes an exhilarating race to the finish line. Perform well and you will earn a Gold or Ace award which improves your rank and acts as a clear incentive to revisit stages.
Levels progress in terms of their complexity through the duration of your adventure. Some stages will require multiple playthroughs to decipher the route and combination of weapons and abilities to craft the perfect run. The philosophy of mastery that permeates Neon White is intoxicating. Due to the quick restart option, you’ll find yourself obsessing over each step and repeating to top your previous attempt. With online leaderboards available for each of the many levels, the game will keep you coming back for more!
In addition to the break-neck action is the relationship aspect of the game. You can discover hidden prizes which can be given to the diverse cast of characters you meet along the way. This will develop your relationships via new dialogue options that lead to information about your elusive past and side quests. Extra missions often include a new gimmick that offers a further challenge. This could be more hazards or the inability to use particular skills which results in new and exciting ways to tackle levels.
The neo-futuristic art style fuses elements of Killer 7 and animes like Plunderer. Each of the participants in the competition wears an animal mask which helps the game carve its own identity and separate itself from its influences. The mix of traditional design and oddball cutesy cartoon characters adds further personality which is amplified through the all-star voice actors. Angel Matrix uses color within the world to guide you. Red indicates destructible items so you can constantly plan ahead just by a glance at the distance. Although this means the palette isn’t particularly varied, it works in the context of the game. Occasionally, I did notice the odd performance issue but this was sporadic and didn’t hinder the enjoyment. The majority of the time it was solid whether playing handheld or docked.
Neon White takes elements of a range of genres and combines them to create a truly fascinating experience. Part hectic, card-based, FPS speedrunner and part visual novel, dating sim, the game manages to strike a perfect balance that successfully blends a multitude of strands. Due to its highly addictive and massively replayable gameplay, online leaderboards and secrets within, you’ll love each and every minute of this heavenly title.
*** A Nintendo Switch key provided by the publisher ***
- Addictive Gameplay
- Unique Card System
- Incredible Mix of Genres
- At Times A Little Dialogue Heavy
- Infrequent Performance Issues
- Some Cringy Narrative Sequences