There’s nothing quite like Neon White, even though Neon White is quite a lot like a whole bunch of other games. From rocket jumps to grappling hooks to mid-air dashes, developer Angel Matrix borrows the best abilities and tricks from across the FPS genre and brings them all together with a slick, anime-inspired coat of paint. But it’s edge-of-your-seat time trial racers like Trackmania and hidden gem Lovely Planet which are the truest comparisons.
At first glance, you could mistake Neon White for an especially salacious dating sim, with all the indecent flirtations that suggests. You’re White, an amnesiac from hell with the chance to earn his place in heaven by mastering the art of high-speed demon murder. It turns out White’s old crew – Purple, Yellow, Green and Red – are in the same situation. Oh, and everyone is incredibly horny.
It’s entertaining enough, and there’s a clear passion and intentionality behind the writing. Fans of anime and visual novels will probably find a lot to love here, and the option to engage in lengthy side conversations with each supporting character between missions makes for a nice change of pace from the core gameplay. Neon White has a very particular vibe, and even though it’s not really to my tastes I can absolutely appreciate the effort.
If scenes like Neon Violet telling White that he’s the kind of guy “that will catch a girl’s spit with his mouth” aren’t enough to get your blood pumping, the gameplay certainly will. Over nearly a hundred levels spread across twelve chapters, you’ll be racing through clean, angular environments, making sure to kill every demon en route. Weapons take the form of cards which you pick up throughout the level or from exploded demon corpses. A rocket launcher, a machine gun, a long-range rifle – there’s a whole armoury to discover, and if you need a boost to reach that far away ledge you can discard a card to activate its movement ability. Rocket jumps, high-speed vertical slams, and mid-air dashes are just a few of the varied and vibrant abilities you’ll have to master.
This is such a brilliant mechanic despite its simplicity, forcing you to make dozens of split-second decisions without ever overwhelming you with too much choice. Do you use your last shotgun shell to blast a demon into oblivion, or will you discard it to boost yourself across a gap? There’s often more than one right answer, and it’s up to you to discover the most efficient path.
Every time you complete a level, you’ll gain insight, which gives you access to the leaderboards, the ghost of your personal best, and even level hints nudging you in the direction of a shortcut. Each unlock sends the same message: go faster, go faster, go faster. The levels throughout are never particularly difficult, at first glance anyway. On my first run through any given map, I was pretty consistently earning a silver medal. A few more attempts and I could shake off any hesitation and touch gold. Those Ace medals, though… That’s where you have to get tricksy.
In a way, playing Neon White feels like taking a masterclass in speedrunning. It teaches you to shave seconds off your time through compulsive repetition. Then, for that final medal, you’re expected to break away from the main path and find unexpected uses for cards or uncover hidden routes that let you skip whole sections of the map. It’s fun stuff, relying on your whip-fast reactions and instincts while also rewarding patience and out-of-the-box thinking. And it’s all so damn stylish. From the – ahem – strikingly steamy character portraits, to the eerily bright and breezy low-poly landscapes, to the absolutely perfect Machine Girl soundtrack. It all feels great.
Let’s not waste any more time – every second counts, after all. Neon White proves that the most compelling and gratifying challenges out there don’t have to involve boss battles that break your spirit or demonic hunger bars that can never be satiated. Instead, some of the most heavenly moments in gaming come from the simple task of facing down your own personal best in Angel Matrix’s fantastic high-speed shooter.