Neon White Review

Neon White is a Hell of a good time.

by Shaun Cichacki
Neon White Review

The deafening thud of electronic music fills your ears, as you get ever so close to the end of a level. You pick up a new card, “Elevate”, so you’ll be able to clear a large gap that is in your immediate presence. You nail the jump, perfectly and cross into the final. You see your score pop up, along with the time that it took you to complete the level. Just slightly short of hitting an Ace ranking, you hit the restart button and try and try again, until you complete the level perfectly. Welcome to Neon White. 

The primal urge for perfection is put at the forefront of this Speedrunning FPS title, which puts you in control of Neon White, the titular main character. You’re dead, there’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it. However, you have a chance at redemption, so long as you play by the Believer’s rules. You’ll need to eliminate demons as you make your way through sprawling levels, set on a linear path of A to B, and make sure you’re doing this as quickly as possible. That’s all there is to it.

You never know what to expect next in this game, besides the fact that is destined to become an immediate cult hit. Few other games on the market fill this niche, and it gives Neon White a chance to truly shine. Yes, in a market full to the brim with countless First Person Shooter games, Neon White has done the unthinkable: it’s done something different, and it makes it all the more astonishing for it.

You Got Your Visual Novel In My FPS

Neon-Red-and-Neon-White

One of the ways that Neon White helps push itself apart from a crowded genre is in the way that it presents itself. Featuring top-tier voice talent from Steve Blum as Neon White, if you grew up during the 2000s era of Toonami and Adult Swim, you’ll immediately feel right at home. Alongside his iconic voice, you’ll also find some swoon-worthy dialog being spat between the characters in this world, a little flirting here and there, mixed alongside the occasional murderous threat.

You’ll have the pleasure of meeting a few other Neons while you’re on your speedrunning journey, each with their own unique personalities that help them explode out of the screen to be burned into your memory forever. You’ll meet the beef-headed Neon Yellow, who may not be the most adorable idiot you’ll ever come across in a video game, with dialog that will make you audibly laugh out loud. You’ll find yourself head over heels for Neon Red, who is equal parts murderous as she is flirtatious. And you’ll find Neon Violet, the alt-girl with multiple personalities.

But most importantly, you’ll discover Neon Green, your antagonist throughout the story. You’ve got some beef with him, but you can’t seem to remember exactly what it is, since you’ve died and been brought back with a case of amnesia. Normally, amnesia is a pretty generic video game trope, but it makes a little more sense here due to the recent circumstances that Neon White has just endured. You’ll be able to visit the overworld and have a chat with some of your new friends, which you just so happen to find out may not be so new after all as the story progresses further.

Make sure that you’ve taken the time to explore the campus, and talk to the other Neons to be treated to some of the funniest writing in recent memory, as well as a chance to get to know them all a little better. You’ll find special characters throughout the map, including multiple Angels that may or may not take the form of adorable cartoon cats.

The Devil Is In The Details

Neon-White-Level

While the visual novel part of the game is quite fun, the gameplay is where it really starts to click together. You’ll notice when you start playing, that although this is a technical First Person Shooter, you have no guns. Instead, rather, you’ll get your hands on Soul Cards throughout the level, all with a primary and discard function. You’ll start out when you make your way to heaven by receiving a Katana, which will allow you to slash demons up close and personal. However, you’ll want to get better weapons as you make your way through a level.

There are 5 different Soul Cards that you’ll be able to find, with a special one that I will not spoil. You’ll get your hands on a Pistol that will allow you to leap massive gaps, a machine gun that will let you shoot a bomb that can destroy many demons at once, as well as propel you across a large area, and more that you need to experience as you play. These weapons are carefully placed throughout the map, to allow players to navigate naturally at the fastest pace possible. You’ll never get a chance to take a breather in these levels if you’re trying for the high score, and the game eggs you on to do so.

As you make your way through these levels, you’ll be able to race to the finish line to earn different medals, which give you Insight for your next time around. There are four different medal types: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Ace, each with its own benefits for unlocking them. As you continue to work through a stage, you’ll be able to continue replaying them, over and over again until you get exactly what you’re looking for.

After completing a stage, you’ll be able to restart it right away, with a few new parts added. You can scour the level for gifts to give to your Neon Friends, you’ll be able to race against the ghost of your fastest time, to see what you can do better to get a better ranking, as well as get onto a global leaderboard once you hit Ace Level. There are also more incentives for getting through a level, with the Heavenly Delight Tickets.

You see, just because you’re in heaven slaying demons doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve a prize every once in a while. That’s where the Heavenly Delights come into play. Complete enough levels on Ace or Gold level, and you’ll be able to make your way up the Neon Ranking Board. You’ll want to make sure that you do this because you’ll be treated to some of the best cutscenes in the game with these options, with some of the best writing that the game has to offer. You’ll get to go see a movie with Mikey, a wonderfully grouchy angel or enjoy an Ice Cream with Neon Yellow. And in perfect anime style, we can’t forget that you get a chance to go to the beach with Neon Violet and Neon Red.

It’s a game that obsesses over its details, and while the world may feel a bit sterile at times, it fits with the overall story groove. You’re here to kill demons, as fast as you can, to make sure that you can secure a spot in heaven. There is no open world, there are not many branching paths, it’s just you and the level you’re in, and that is something that helps this game feel fresh at all times.

Must Accelerate At A Rapid Pace

Neon-White-Global-Leaderboard

One thing that a First-Person game of any type needs is great controls, and you’ll find a game that can be played by anyone with any control type that they would like to use. If you’re wanting to zoom through the skies with a keyboard and mouse, you’ll be able to do just that, but Neon White also controls great with a controller. While the initial control setup for a controller is a bit odd, you’ll be able to tweak it a bit, but with its emphasis on movement at almost all times, you’ll also find that using the left trigger on an Xbox controller to jump makes sense. You’re always moving, and always looking around, so not needing to use the face buttons can make or break the experience.

Thankfully, with the nature of the game and the silky smooth controls, you’ll be able to master the world around you in no time, allowing you to shoot up the rankings and claim a spot on the top. Not only are you fighting against the demons that are invading heaven, but you’re also fighting to become the greatest at the game. Once you have hit the Ace ranking, you’ll find that you’re able to see the global leaderboard. From here, you’ll be able to restart the level and play through it as many times as you would like, making sure that you’re claiming a spot of greatness.

One thing that is great about this feature, as well, is the fact that there is a dedicated reset button on your keyboard. You’ll be able to hit the F key at any point in a level to start back at the beginning, so you can try again and again to make your run perfect. This is one of the most highly addictive parts of the game, especially for those that like to play as a perfectionist. Making sure that you’re finding ways to cut mere milliseconds off of your best run feels great, and will keep you coming back for more.

Killer Sounds

Neon-White-Gameplay

Neon White has a very unique aesthetic, and its sound design reflects this choice just about as well as its visual design. With a pounding electronic soundtrack produced by Machine Girl, you’ll find more than a few certified bangers on this soundtrack. Something that would not sound out of place playing in a specific type of club, you won’t be embarrassed to say that this is the soundtrack to a video game. It’s fast-paced, it’s loud, and it can be downright angry at times. But it’s also one of the greatest soundtracks to ever grace a game, and that’s saying something.

You’ll find yourself losing faith in your abilities at times, but just taking a moment to let the soundtrack fill you with determination to get back in and try again can help push forward to achieve that record time, or make it through the level. Here’s to hoping they release this as a separate part because even if you don’t love the gameplay loop, you’ll love the soundtrack.

Voice acting is also great, with some top-tier talent, alongside some newer voices in the art. Steve Blum delivers a great stoic hero with Neon White, and the general vibes of Neon Violet that Courtney Lin provide are out of the part. While the game can be extremely meta and funny, it’s during the more serious scenes that the range of these actors truly shines. While there are a few hiccups of slight cringe, it’s more intentional than not, as the game fully accepts and dives into cringe culture.

The Verdict

Look, this is not going to be a game for everyone. This is a video game about flying around heaven, shooting and dashing through demons, flirting with your other neons, gathering cards that happen to double as weapons, and talking to angels that just so happen to be cats with comically large sunglasses. If any of that sounds even slightly interesting to you, you may have found your new obsession. If you’re looking for something more straightforward, with huge open worlds to explore while you unravel the truth, you’re going to want to look elsewhere.

Games are art in their own way, and this is determined to become someone’s new favorite game, or something that others will play and hate the entire premise of. There’s really not a middle ground with Neon White. Following suit with games like Deadly Premonition and Danganronpa, I can already feel a dedicated fanbase that will defend everything about this franchise until the end of time, and I’m glad to say that I’m firmly in that camp. Neon White is a refreshing change of pace, in a world that is full of drab and dull military shooters, it’s amazing to see something like this come out of the woodwork to completely shake things up. It’s been a while since a game like this was brought to life, and we can only hope more titles like this come out of the woodwork in the future.

This game was reviewed using a copy of the game provided by the game's publisher,public relations company, developer or other for the express purpose of a review.

"loved"
loved

Neon White

  • Score: 5 / 5
  • Available On: PC, Nintendo Switch
  • Published By: Annapurna Interactive
  • Developed By: Annapurna Interactive
  • Genre: Action Adventure
  • US Release Date: June 16, 2022
  • Reviewed On: PC
  • Quote: "This is a video game about flying around heaven, shooting and dashing through demons, flirting with your other neons, gathering cards that happen to double as weapons, and talking to angels that just so happen to be cats with comically large sunglasses. If any of that sounds even slightly interesting to you, you may have found your new obsession."
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