(available for Nintendo Switch and PC)
(Nintendo Switch version used for review)
Speed running is a phenomenon in gaming that has increased in popularity within the last number of years, mostly due to events like AGDQ/SGDQ and other content creators gaining a career from the craft. With the growth of the speed running community and fanbase, it’s inevitable that game companies will try to capitalise on it and create a game focusing on it. One such game is Neon White, which was developed by Angel Matrix and released 16th June 2022 for Nintendo Switch and Steam.
In Neon White you take on the role of White, an assassin plucked from the depths of Hell by forces of Heaven, with missing memories. Every year beings from Hell, referred to as Neons, are brought into Heaven to take place in an event called the Twelve Days of Judgement, where they’re given the task of dispatching Demons who infiltrated the realm, with the promise that whoever slays the most, gets to spend a year in paradise. With your memories missing, finding companionship with friends from your previous life; Yellow, Violet and Red, as well as an unexplainable but severe hatred for the Neon Green, you traverse the realm of Heaven with the aim to slaughter all in your way. I actually really like the story, there’s a lot of mystery that’s really engaging and has very likeable and hateable characters.
The levels you play in, I can’t deny, look a bit bland. While some of the missions do change the environments up a little, mostly with the colour of the sky or the look of the buildings, a large chunk of the levels consists of you running through pure white buildings resembling chapels. While I can look past it as the game isn’t really meant to look pretty and there is some variety at times, it would have been cool to have a bit more. Though I mostly feel that way because I really love the character design, each of the characters look incredibly stylistic to the point where they wouldn’t look out of place in a Persona game if they had a bit more colour to them. The voice acting as well is seriously good, all the characters are pretty much one note with little depth, but the cast portrays them really well. The soundtrack fits this game perfectly, created by Machine Girl, the techno soundtrack is very upbeat and fast-paced, seeing that this game focuses heavily on speed running, I’d say it’s a perfect fit.
Neon White is an action platformer, focusing on you dispatching Demons and using disposable abilities to make it through the levels as fast as possible. The levels are structured like obstacle courses, consisting of linear corridors and enemies to try and hinder your progress. The Demons are very easy to identify from one another, you’ll easily be able to tell what each enemy can do just from a moment’s glance. Though don’t think you can just avoid having to kill an enemy as you have to kill everything to be able to unlock the level’s exit, luckily each Demon can be quickly dispatched so long as you have the right weapon (in other words not the pistol).
Your main tool for rushing through your level are the Weapon Cards. Each of these cards represent a certain type of gun that can be used to slay all enemies in your path. Though the important part of these are less the weapons, and more their Discard Abilities. Just as each weapon represents a different gun, each card also has a different Discard Ability that is required to get through the level. For example, the yellow card allows you to do a second jump while in the air, the purple card fires a bomb that can kill enemies in one hit and launch you in a direction adjacent to it, or the green card will shoot you downwards and will cause an AOE attack where you land. Figuring out where and how to use these, adds an extra challenge to beating each of these levels as using them too early and you’ll have to start from the very beginning; luckily all the levels are incredibly short so it’s not too punishing.
For completing each level you’ll receive a Medal depending on how fast you complete it. Bronze is the easiest one to get, as all you need for that is to make it to the end of the level, it’s mostly a participation prize (the game’s basically saying, congratulations you tried). Silver is also pretty easy to get, as the time to get it is very generous and you’ll get it easily as long as you know when to use your Discard Abilities. Gold is where it gets a bit more complicated as it will require you to know exactly when and how to use the Discard Abilities and will require you to kill Demons as soon, and as quickly as you possibly can. To top it off, it is the only medal that is really required for you to continue the game, as receiving it will increase your Neon Rank which will need to be at a certain level in order for you to move on to the next set of levels. The Ace Medals are by far the hardest to get and easily took up most of my playtime, as they require you to be near perfect in order to achieve them and for you to utilise shortcuts where possible to even just barely make the time, luckily, the only purpose they really serve is bragging rights, so they’re not a requirement like with the Gold Medals. It’s an insane challenge that I fully recommend you do. Getting the Ace Medals was by far the most fun part of the game, the level of speed required to achieve such a feat is psychotic and you will feel like a God when you pull off some of the feats necessary to make it. I somehow managed to get all the Ace Medals, not because of my compulsory need to get everything (well not entirely), but because it was just so fun to do so.
Along with the Medals, the main collectables of the game are the gifts. You’ll find a gift hidden in most levels that you can give one of your friends, depending on the colour. Some of these gifts are easy to find and easy to achieve, some won’t even require you to go out of your way to collect them. Others on the other hand, are not only very out of the way and difficult to find, but will demand you to go through most of the level in a completely different way than you normally would, forcing you to preserve Weapon Cards that you normally would have discarded to even reach them. I would not suggest going out of your way to find these things without a guide, otherwise you’ll be spending a very long time trying to figure out how to get them, and even then the skills you need to collect these gifts is ridiculous. That being said though, these gifts are absolutely worth getting. As giving them to your friends will unlock small conversations between White and that character, memories giving you insight to your old life, and, the best part, side quests – small levels with requisites depending on the character such as the inability to use discard skills or spikes that will kill you in one hit. These side quests are a lot of fun and are the main reason that I went after these gifts. The extra challenge of the level’s gimmicks really heightened the enjoyment that I got with them, as well as the frustration.
If there’s any negatives to this game that I can really think of, it would probably be the tedium. This game requires a lot of trial and error, and even the most skilled player will have a lot of trouble just getting the Gold Medal on some of the levels. While I did manage to get every Ace Medal, it still took me a ludicrous amount of time to get even one on the later levels, to the point where I even started to look up guides on the best way to get them, and even then I was still barely able to obtain them. While I was rarely ever frustrated during this game, and all of the failures and restarts, I acknowledge, were my fault, I cannot deny that this game is not for the faint of heart, and will require you to struggle.
I did not go into Neon White expecting it to end up being one of the best games I’ve played all year, but I cannot deny that it absolutely is. I had an insane amount of fun with this game. The fast-paced action was exhilarating and despite messing up constantly I never felt any inclination to give up or even really get that frustrated. I wholeheartedly recommend that anyone interested in this game give it a go, especially seeing how cheap it is. Believe me, if there’s an indie game that’s better than this, I will be very surprised.
Anime Amigo and Nerd Consultant
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