Every year, a group of sinners are brought up from Hell to fight for the chance to live permanently in Heaven. The competition? To see who can defeat the most demons as fast as possible all whilst platforming through Heaven. Without further ado, let us jump into our review for Neon White!
The main goal of Neon White is to traverse a level, eliminate all demons, and reach the finish. Each level is usually around 20 to 50 seconds and has 5 different medals to reward the player. Every level has what what are essentially two different objectives: Finish as fast as possible and find a hidden gift. These two objectives compliment each other very well as both require you to learn the ins and outs of each level. A fast finish requires the use of shortcuts while still eliminating all enemies, while finding the gift often requires stockpiling guns from different parts of the level. Speaking of which…
Gunplay and Platforming
Neon White’s bread and butter is the mix of its combat and platforming. At the start of a level the player only has a katana, which is about as strong as a butter knife. As such, finding a weapon to properly dispatch enemies is often one of the first things done in a mission. The weapons have two main purposes, the first being to shoot enemies, with each weapon having a different type of projectile, and the second and more interesting function is discarding them. Discarding a weapon grants you a movement ability, at the cost of losing the gun. The abilities range from a jump, a sticky bomb that can launch you into the air or a grappling hook.
As a result, choosing when to hold onto a gun for clearing enemies or move throughout the level is vital. The interesting part is that certain enemies drop guns and that you may only carry two guns at the same time. This results in the ability to chain together picking up weapons, defeating another demon, then immediately using their weapon to jump/dash/grapple your way to the next part of the level.
Something else that is important to note, your character is very floaty. While incredibly jarring at first, levels are designed around taking advantage of the floatiness. The floatiness also adds another component to focus on when aiming to get good times on certain levels.
Speeding Things Up
One major feature that Neon White lacks but is present in most other speedrun platformers is tech. For those unaware, tech is stuff like animation canceling actions into each other or using a weapon for unintended purposes. As a result Neon White is significantly more accessible for newer players to the genre. Having a good leaderboard time is more of a focus on game sense and understanding the level instead mechanical skill.
This lack of tech also results in several weapons being easier to use, but also in a less fun way. Something like the sticky bomb can only launch you upwards. This prevents the player from using it to gain large amounts of horizontal speed, lowering a possible skill ceiling. Overall though, the lack of tech makes failed runs happen from miscalculations in planning instead of mechanical skill.
Despite the great gameplay loop, Neon White also has some… interesting dialogue to say the least. The game will often bounce between being a gritty story of an undead assassin trying to remember his past life to what I am going to call “haha so quirky” humor. The underlying story of the entire game is fine, but is difficult to take seriously when in between every major scene there is some cringe dialogue. I love games with that type of goofiness, but as the story progresses, the comments become more annoying than funny.
A similar thing occurs in the main hub, where your character will learn about his previous relationship with one of the characters, then go on to not acknowledge it whatsoever the rest of the game. The characters for the most part are clichés, but that did not stop me from enjoying the side dialogue between them and the main character. All of the side dialogue is cheesy and dumb, but it does help flesh the characters out into a generally likable crew.
As for some last finishing touches, the game’s music is done by Machine Girl and is great. Despite spending upwards of 20 minutes mapping out some specific levels to get good times, the soundtrack never felt stale. The UI can be clunky at times, like when delivering gifts to people, which feels like it takes too long. Fortunately, this clunkiness is not present in levels, where you will be spending most of your time playing.
While there is some post-story content, it is mainly just reprising pre-existing levels in the game and turning them into gauntlets, with the only new bit of content being a gauntlet of all the story levels with a twist. The game also has quite a few achievements on Steam, some providing a decent challenge, but never feeling unfair. However most of the replayability comes from beating other players’ times on the leaderboard.
Despite its shortcomings with storyline and post-story content, Neon White’s core gameplay is enough to keep you coming back to keep improving your time. I would recommend checking the game out if you enjoy rock-solid platforming and competing with your own personal bests.
Have you tried out Neon White? If so, what is your take on it? Was the allure of the crisp platforming enough to power you through the more questionable parts of the dialogue? Let us know in the comments below!