Neon White - Speed and Style
Neon White is a speed-running platformer that uses cards for abilities. Each level is designed around a specific rhythm using the provided cards, so your first attempt is always one of learning and adjustment, with expertise coming from several repeats. In each stage, the dual objectives are to kill all the demons and then reach the end gate, with the added layer of trying to do this as fast as possible. Faster times reward you with medals that deal out upgrade juice in the form of insight, little eyes that fill a meter and increase your ranking as a heavenly demon slayer. You can only progress through missions by reaching required levels, which encourages you to replay them for better medals, which also unlock extra elements per stage, such as global leader boards, ghosts and collectables. This sounds like a lot, but don’t worry – everything unlocks at a nice pace.
Although it does steadily increase in complexity, Neon White never feels too overwhelming as each stage usually sticks to a handful of cards and enemy types. It presents a difficulty level that makes you feel just great enough to get a gold medal after a handful of replays of each stage, while also offering global boards that will undoubtedly offer crazy ghost runs to try and emulate, if not have much hope of beating.
As you progress, more cards are introduced – so you might get a card that fires like a shotgun, spreading shots wide to kill multiple demons in one shot, or one that offers automatic fire. However, the true use of these cards comes into play with their discard abilities. Pressing the right bumper discards your currently selected card, giving you a secondary power. For example, the shotty card lets you leap in the direction you are facing on discard, which can be handy for reaching higher areas as well as bursting through demons to kill them quickly and efficiently. The green card makes you stomp downwards on discard, allowing you to break through red floor barriers, while the purple card zips you horizontally in the direction you are facing, which helps cover long jumps.
This system is married to the level design, so enemies may drop purple cards as you burst through them, which lets you string along a series of dashes to quickly master the level. As you replay each level, your muscle memory develops until you feel like a master of that short space – each one only lasting a minute or so.
An additional gameplay layer comes in the form of gift collectables that are hidden in each level. These will take all your puzzle-solving skills to both spot and then work out how to reach them. One level saw me needing to save at least three green cards to bash down through three barriers at the end of the level to reach the gift, which meant that I had to risk being slayed by homing-shot demons, using my default katana to explode red barrels, then leap around enemy attacks to save my cards. Other gifts might need you to perfect a dash underneath floating platforms to reach them. Once you touch a gift, it is saved and the stage resets, so you can risk death to do so. These gifts then get given to other Neons who are trapped in this strange version of heaven with you. Each one may unlock a new piece of dialogue or even bonus levels that offer an extra challenge. This triple layer of depth to each short stage saw me replaying each one several times before moving on, thus elongating the experience.
Neon White’s writing will not appeal to everyone, an aspect the developer seems aware of as they have offered a fast-forward button that skips through dialogue, which I implemented from an early stage. It’s not exactly bad. There are some light-hearted pop culture references (at one stage, you sit through a viewing of The Matrix with a fellow Neon), but it’s not riveting either and comes across a bit long-winded and unnecessary, so I didn’t feel like I missed much at all by skipping most of it. That said, you might absolutely be in the mood for the irreverent tone achieved here, with light flirting sitting alongside some more serious issues around memory and trauma, so take my criticism lightly.
Graphically, everything looks slick and, though sparsely animated – presented mostly as talking cut-outs – I think it all works together. The aesthetic reminded me a lot of Paradise Killer. This is rounded out by a soundtrack that suits the pacing of the game perfectly. All up, I found Neon White to be addictive, compelling and highly enjoyable.
Neon White was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch with code kindly supplied by the Publisher