REVIEW: ‘Neon White’ is a Gateway to Speedrunning (PC)

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Neon White - But Why Tho

Every now and then there’s a game that pitches itself as being made for speedrunning. Many don’t nail it. Neon White is not one of those games. Developed by Ben Esposito and Angel Matrix, and published by Annapurna Interactive, created a game that goes right for that “one more run” itch. Plus, this isn’t just done with smooth gameplay controls, a stylish setting, and a bangin’ soundtrack.

Neon White is almost like the 2000 movie Battle Royale. You play as a Neon, a sinner who has been given a chance to earn a year in Heaven. Over the course of a week, you and your fellow Neons are tasked by The Believers, angel-like beings, to slay as many demons as possible. The one who slays the most (or is the last to survive) gets to be an honorary citizen of Heaven. They’re not doing this willingly. Each Neon is given a mask to stay in line. If they do one thing wrong? BOOM! They, on a spiritual level, explode. Thing is, every single Neon is a killer or someone who has done horrendous things in their life. As for you, Neon White, you have no memory. Thankfully there are other Neons who do remember you.

So you and your “friends” go on a demon-killing spree in hopes of winning the prize or stopping this weekly contest. How is this done, though? Through the use of cards that serve as your weapon. Now, this is where I think the marketing of this game was disingenuous. Marketing pitched these cards as almost like a “Card-based deckbuilding shooter.” This couldn’t be further from the truth.  These cards aren’t something you collect and build upon. They’re charges for different weapons and special abilities. So thinking of how the cards operate as a deck builder would only hinder your experience. These “cards” should be thought of only as weapon pickups. Ones that you will use right away after grabbing one, whether it be to shoot or use their special ability.

For instance, in a level, I’d pick up a pistol and a marksman rifle. That pistol’s special ability is a much higher jump. If I used that ability, that gun would be gone. Same for the marksman rifle. That weapon’s special is a horizontal dash. What surprised me is how well-choreographed these weapons are. Neon White has no visualization on the screen of a gun. In fact, the developer explicitly stated he didn’t want guns in the game because he found them too difficult to add. All it has are cards. So, the way these cards stand out is through the cards being VERY colorful. In my ultrawide monitor, I could still clearly see what gun I had just because of a simple color. No matter how busy the levels got, not even during the fastest moments, it was very easy to tell what I had, and I could react quickly without a second guess.

On the topic of levels, they never feel stale. There are over 90 levels, and each one feels surprisingly unique, which is honestly impressive. I’m not sure if it’s because they are all full of secrets or just the thrill of “one more attempt” to get the fastest time, but there is magic in what the developers have put into their design. And when I mean these levels are full of secrets, they are full of quick corner cuts or shortcuts that you wouldn’t even think about at first to get faster times. One in particular that really stuck out to me was the last level of mission one. I kept on getting a gold rating (the second-highest rating) on this map and was wondering how my friends were going much faster than me.

Turns out, I was just not thinking outside the box. Instead of running the course, I had to use the rifle’s special fire, which shoots an explosive, and use that to jump up a wall. Doing that not only let me get the diamond rank but get #2 out of all my friends. How did I figure this out, though? By being rewarded with a shortcut hint. Each level has four rewards depending on how fast you go. Most are tied to being able to see leaderboards. One spawns a subtle hint in the level. A hint that reveals where exactly the shortcut is. And when I say subtle, it’s not a giant arrow. It’s a glowing hand that just leads you in the right direction and doesn’t say anything more.

There are also hidden collectibles in each level too, and they unlock some of the most fun levels in the game. I loved the side quest levels so much because they were not only just more levels but more like challenge levels. One of the groups of levels given by Neon Violet, one of Neon White’s friends, is a horror-style survival room. Everywhere you jump can kill you, so you need to move methodically. For those given by Neon Yellow, they’re more like mastery levels with a certain weapon. If you don’t care about the story, I still highly suggest you just hunt down those collectibles to access the challenge levels.

However, while I loved every aspect of the gameplay, the story, on the other hand, is the weakest part. I enjoyed it, but it felt very superfluous beyond the overarching mystery of this demon-slaying event. Particularly, I did not care for Neon White nearly as much as I did everyone else. Granted, the amnesia felt more like a MacGuffin to make Neon White the player, but the story focused on him recovering his memories. So in a way, both aspects of that kind of failed. But the game felt like it was also made for those who didn’t care about the story with a skip feature. And that feature is great. It’s quick and lets you get right back into the action.

Neon White nails the “one more try” mentality. With complex and fast levels, great enemy variety, and easy readability, it feels like a fantastic intro to speedrunning. My biggest gripe? I want more! Not that there isn’t enough, but I just can’t get enough of the Neons and the gripping nature of this game.

Neon White is available now on PC and Nintendo Switch.

Neon White
  • 9.5/10
    Rating - 9.5/10


Neon White nails the “one more try” mentality. With complex and fast levels, great enemy variety, and easy readability, it feels like a fantastic intro to speedrunning. My biggest gripe? I want more! Not that there isn’t enough, but I just can’t get enough of the Neons and the gripping nature of this game.

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