Review – Neon White

Well this is a massive surprise. We’ve already had tons of great games this year from Dying Light 2 Stay Human to Total War: Warhammer 3, and many more. However, Neon White came out of nowhere is absolutely one of my favourite games in the past couple of years. It’s an anime infused first person shooter that’s all about speed. It almost feels like the game was built with me in mind. Annapurna and Angel Matrix really hit a home run on this one.

Neon White Running Fast

Got to go fast!

Heaven has been invaded by an army of demons. Too help combat the threat, the heavens look towards Hell and gather a small group of individuals to assist in this task; these individuals become known as Neons. The Neon that kills the most demons is listed as the champion and receives the prize of being able to stay in heaven. You play as the latest Neon to join the contest, Neon White. 

What unravels is a pretty compelling plot that delves into what makes Neons special. Joining White is a number of other Neons with unique personalities and masks to suit them. We have the Kitsune wearing Neon Red, who is just as deadly with a sniper as she is seductive. Then there’s murder-happy bunny, Violet, and the best friend, Yellow, as well as the few citizens of heaven that will willingly talk to a sinner. This includes the quest giver, Mike, who talks like a mob boss for some reason. 

Much of the story is told as a visual novel. You will be talking to fellow Neons and uncovering their past, as well as discovering how they are tangled with yours. You’ll also learn more about some of the inhabitants of Heaven. It’s a pretty straight forward plot, but it does get better as the game goes along. There are some neat twists and truly surprising moments that really stand out. All of this is helped along with the immense style of the game itself. 

Neon White Leaderboards

Maybe not breaking records but I’m really happy with my place on some of the levels!

Neon White is a fast-paced speed-running parkour first-person shooter. As you go through each of the game’s relatively short but wonderfully designed levels, you will collect cards that can be used to kill demons. You have the basic pistols, rifles, and shotguns. Sounds simple enough, because it really is. Each level is more of a puzzle on how to best utilise your cards and their special alternative abilities. By discarding specific cards, you will access movement-based abilities to move around quicker. Discarding a pistol will allow you to perform a double jump, whilst discarding an assault rifle fires a grenade, which can not only be used to kill groups of enemies, but also traverse the map. Sometimes it will be through cheeky shortcuts or the occasional destructible wall. Completing a level is easy. Completing it fast is the challenge. 

Neon White’s biggest trick is with its scoring and approach to progression. Going through the level, you will typically end up with a gold or silver medal, unless you get lost. However, as you learn the rules of the game and its many ways to get around the environments, you will quickly figure out ways to dramatically drop your times to get that ACE ranking. This increases your insight and is your main means of progression. One of the earliest examples was a map that takes a long loop around. However, with clever grenade launcher placements, I figured you can skip an entire section of the map. Although, you should remember that it’s not just about getting to the end. You need to kill all demons in the level. So Neon White‘s gameplay loop becomes a balancing act of getting through the level in the absolute fastest time, whilst still killing all enemies. 


“Feel the rush!”

I’ve spent upwards of an hour or more trying to perfect my times and climb up the leaderboards. Yeah, my times aren’t record breaking, but I’m proud of how far I’ve moved up. Neon White does a superb job of keeping that feeling going, even going so far as to really compete with my friend’s leaderboard times. As you play more of the game, you will pick up new tricks that will help you improve score in previous levels. Those thrilling moments when you find a route or new placement that can help you shave even just a couple milliseconds off your score provide the best moments. Throughout my playthrough of the game, I would never move on from a level without achieving the ACE medal. Then for the standout levels, I would push myself further. This addictive core gameplay loop is truly where Neon White shines and I expect to spend many more hours playing this game. 

Throughout the main missions you might see little packages that function as collectables. Getting these “gifts” requires you to take different routes through the level or creatively using the cards available to you. Taking these gifts to the different characters around the hub of central Heaven will unlock dialogue that will further your relationship with these characters. Not only that, it also opens up a bunch of side missions that will usually differ from the usual gameplay loops with some interesting platforming challenges. It’s also worth noting in the main path there are a number of boss fights that keep the games ultra fast pace going. 

Visually, Neon White is rather simple, with environments that are decidedly lacking in finer details. However, it also is rather stunning to look at. Some areas are a little too drab, but some of the later levels are a joy to look at. That being said, when Neon White‘s visual style shines through, it’s an incredibly stylish game that I need more of. Everything from the character designs, to unique minimalistic aesthetic of the world, and anime influences come together for a style that is quite distinctive. There’s no overly flashy visuals to get in the way of the stellar gameplay, which is how it should be for a game like this. 


All the things Violet finds cute….

As for the sound design, it is also pretty damn good. The voice acting is pretty solid, with each character providing something new for the story whilst going into those anime cliché of over-the-top dialogue. Violet in particular is great for this. It’s often times hilarious and occasionally dramatic. Not to mention a killer soundtrack that really fits in well with the fast pace of the game. 

Neon White is not only the most surprising game of the year so far, but also my personal favourite of this year. It provides an interesting story told in the strikingly beautiful visual novel format. It also provides one of the most addicting and satisfying gameplay loops since Ghostrunner. The thrill of moving up those leaderboards and cutting down your times millisecond by millisecond never gets old. I really hope we see a lot more from Neon White in the future. 


Graphics: 9.0

Neon White is overly stylish and often times wonderful to look at, but some environments can be too simple. Especially in side content.

Gameplay: 10

The tight first-person card-based combat and compelling visual novel makes for a unique gameplay experience.

Sound: 9.0

A high energy soundtrack that really puts you into the mood for speed running works wonderfully. However the more anime inspired voice acting won’t be to everyone’s tastes.

Fun Factor: 10

Nothing beats that feeling of slowly climbing your way up the leaderboards. Neon White does it the absolute best thanks to its addictive core mechanics.

Final Verdict: 9.5

Neon White is available now on PC and Nintendo Switch.

Reviewed on PC with an RTX 2060, Ryzen 5 3600X and 16GB RAM. Game installed on SSD.