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Neon White review for Nintendo Switch, PC


Platform: Nintendo Switch
Also on: PC
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Developer: Angel Matrix
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: T

Not to be too reductive, but Neon White is incredible, and Ben Esposito is a genius.

I know, I know: plenty of other people worked on Neon White, and I shouldn’t minimize what they did. But as the creator and lead designer, I assume he played a significant role in the game’s creation. Couple Neon White’s incredible-ness with the fact he also played major roles on Donut County (which I loved), What Remains of Edith Finch (a strong contender for one of my all-time favourite games), and The Unfinished Swan (which was also exceptional), and it’s pretty clear that Esposito knows how to make great games.

In that context, though, what’s especially interesting about Neon White is how different it is from other games. Those three games I mentioned above were, in reverse order, a game about painting your way through a maze, a walking simulator, and a game about racoons using holes to steal everything. All of them progressed at a fairly leisurely pace.

Neon White, by contrast, isn’t just fast-paced, the speed is the point. You’re being timed, and you have to fly through every level, guns blazing, looking for shortcuts to shave off precious seconds wherever you can. One false step can ruin it all – and there’s even a button dedicated to restarting the level, since you’ll need to use it pretty frequently.

On top of that, the game uses a card-based system, so you’re grabbing cards and shuffling your deck as you go. Again, you need to time them all just right, or you’ll falter and be forced to start the level over again.

The two things that make the game’s pace work are the movement and the music. In terms of movement, your character – the titular Neon White – glides along the ground like he’s skating, and soars through the air with every jump. It feels perfectly smooth, and from the beginning of the first level you just want to keep going faster and faster to take advantage of it.

The other half of the equation is that Neon White has an amazing score, courtesy of New York City band Machine Girl. It’s all glitchy and stuttering and frenetic, and it goes with the on-screen action perfectly. It’s also worth noting that the score is available on on Bandcamp, and even just listening to it there should give you a good sense of what the game is like.

There’s also a story about demons fighting each other to live in Heaven, but I have to be honest: I generally fast-forwarded through the story bits just to get back to the action. It’s there, and it’s all told via visual novel-style anime cutscenes, so if you want a story it has that, too.

But the real draw in Neon White is the action – the pure, unfiltered, adrenaline-pumping action that feels like it brings together the best thing about games like Devil May Cry or Ghostrunner or Mirror’s Edge or Sonic or whatever else you play when you want to go as fast as possible while slicing and shooting through every single enemy in your way. It’s a pretty exceptional game, and it’s unlike anything else out there.

Annapurna Interactive provided us with a Neon White Switch code for review purposes.

Grade: A-