Heavenly Mechanics For One Hell Of A Time

HIGH Smooth movement blended with easy combat.

LOW Wanting more interaction with Neon Green.

WTF: John Cena as an Angel.


TRANSCRIPT:

Hi everyone! Eugene Sax here with another review from Gamecritics.com.

Neon White is a high-speed platformer with some light combat elements. Players take the role of White — a sinner called a “Neon” with a knack for guns, but he’s suffering from amnesia and riddled with guilt from an unknown source.

Players will traverse different areas of heaven, killing demons and racing to a goal to get the fastest time possible, all to impress the Believers for a chance to win a permanent spot past the pearly gates. Along the way players will meet other so-called “Neons” like White, learn more about White’s past, and uncover the secrets some of the Believers are hiding.

Through each level, players will be able to pick up guns that take the form of soul cards – a pistol, a rifle, or a shotgun for a few examples. These aren’t only used to kill demons, but also for traversal. For example, discarding a pistol gives a second jump, while the rifle gives a short range forward dash. Players must eliminate all demons before the goal opens to complete the level.

Each level has rankings for different medal scores, which is required for story progression. Every soul card has it’s purpose, both in combat and movement, and all are balanced perfectly where the game flows elegantly through each level.

Most players are going to end up playing each level multiple times in pursuit of speedy finishes, and Neon White made a few clever choices to make this repetition more bearable.

First is how quickly it is to restart — if players are not happy with a run, it only takes the push of a single button to reset if a mistake is made.

The other design decision that keeps things moving is that each level in Neon White will eventually unlock a hint to finishing the level in a more efficient way after a certain number of completed attempts, generally alternate routes that shave off the time needed to get the medals required for story progression. These hints also double as tools to teach nuances of the extra movement options. Perhaps a large gap that seemed impossible can be cleared with an extra jump from a pistol card, or perhaps the rifle card’s dash can be used in a less obvious place for greater effect.

As far as combat is concerned, it’s secondary to the speedy platforming, which I think was the right way to go. There’s decent auto-aim assistance if players are pointing in the general area of the enemy, which puts the focus more on mobility — Neon White’s strong suit.

Another element encouraging replay is that each level also has a hidden gift. These gifts can be given to named NPCs for more detailed story moments, and they’ll ultimately unlock some challenge levels. Each of these challenge levels seem to be related to the character that players are interacting with, which gives them all a unique flavor.

As an example, players who interact with Neon Red will be given challenges that focus on “teaching” challenge levels to learn advanced techniques about soul cards. On the other hand, the demented and death-crazed Neon Violet has challenge levels that are more about avoiding death traps.

While all of this is great, the thing I think is most clever is how Neon White handles leaderboards.

There’s one for each level, and playing casually through the “intended”, or most obvious path, will net players a gold medal pretty consistently. However, it does not show a global leaderboard until the player either aces the level or if replayed enough times to earn max insight. This is great because by keeping the global rankings hidden, it avoids discouraging players with times that seem impossible to achieve until they’re good enough to possibly achieve them.

One thing that may put people off are the light visual novel aspects. I suspect most players will see the “amnesiac” story beats coming a mile away, and my feeling is that there will be specific characters that many players will hate. Putting taste aside, the fact that a story even exists can bring the momentunm of Neon White‘s quick and precise movement play to a halt. Personally, I enjoyed the pause in the action and took a few breaths after an intense set of levels, but I know that’s not going to be the case for everyone. Also, a similar concern with pace is that the load times on Switch can be long.

Apart from those small concerns, everything about Neon White feels so intentional, smart, and well-balanced that it wasn’t enough to keep me from loving every moment of this game. The art and music are dripping with style, the mechanics are easy to learn and offer enough wiggle room to be challenging without demanding perfection, and the story is full of heart — if a bit corny at times. If this game looks even remotely interesting, don’t sleep on it.

For me, Neon White gets a 10 out of 10.


Disclosures: This game is developed by BenStar, and published by Annapurna Interactive and Angel Matrix.  It is currently available on Switch and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 15 hours of play was spent playing the game, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRBthis game is rated T and contains Fantasy Violence, Language, Mild Blood, Mild Suggestive Themes, Use of Tobacco. From the ESRB: “This is an action game in which players assume the role of an assassin on a mission to defeat demons. From a first-person perspective, players traverse platform environments and attempt to exterminate numerous demons. Players use Soul Cards that provide weapons (e.g., swords, pistols, shotguns) and special abilities to kill demons. Combat is highlighted by gunfire and sword-slashing effects. Black-and-white still images depict additional acts of violence and blood: a wounded woman with a bloodstained shirt killed off-screen; a man shot offscreen, then shown with blood on his chest. The game contains some suggestive material: characters designed with revealing outfits (e.g., deep cleavage) and/or jiggling breasts; a still image of a character pressing against a man’s waist, with text reading, “There’s something exhilarating about this…that hint of danger, your hot breath on the back of my neck.” A recurring cat character is depicted smoking a cigar. The word “a*shole” is heard in the game.”

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: There is text in game, but text is not resizable. Audio mostly serves aesthetic purposes and is not needed for gameplay. The game is completely accessible.

Remappable controls: Controls are completely remappable.

Eugene Sax
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