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Community Article: Indie Insights - Neon White

Written by John Edwards

"Gotta go fast" may well be the mantra of the blue hedgehog but apparently it's also great advice for navigating the afterlife.

In Neon White you play the titular character who has died and found himself in heaven for ten days. It's populated by souls known as neons and the main characters all get specific colours for their names and outfits. You're instructed by the beings running the place to go on some missions to clear out some demons, although there is a beach you can go sit on instead.

Your missions are usually brief affairs, rushing through from enemy to enemy before exiting in a glowing phone booth looking exit. You have a sword but it's rubbish so along the way you want to pick up weapons, which might have you thinking it's a first person shooter. It is first person and there is shooting, but that's no really the focus.

The weapons you collect appear as cards, you can hold a limited number at a time and switch between them if needed, but generally you won't have to. Each weapon can be fired, so you'll have a handgun, shotgun, sniper and such, but the crucial feature is their second function.

Each weapon card can be discarded with a tap of RB and activate its secondary function, these vary by weapon type. These range from a second jump midair, a ground pound, dashing straight forward or a glob of explosives which can propel you higher. All the weapons are colour coded so you'll have a clear idea of what they'll do without having to think too much about it and the level design makes it so it's very clear what you're expected to do.

Neon White is less FPS than it is a speedrunning training ground. It presents your missions like a puzzle of navigation, which enemy you should shoot, which too bounce off, what weapon you'll need to still be holding on to if you want to cross that chasm. It generates a great feeling of flow as you bounce, run and shoot swiftly through the sparsely decorated levels, eliminating everyone between you and to goal in a wonderfully acrobatic way.

 

Aesthetically it'll probably remind you of Mirror's Edge with the clean whites and vivid primary colours guiding you through the levels. Some of the style choice reminded me of Killer 7 and the dialogue brought to mind Catherine. But all of it feels like a three dimensional parkour puzzle game. It's not only desirable to speed your way through the levels, it's necessary. You want to ping from one place to another so you'll have enough height to dash to the next ledge and grab the next life saving weapon that's also a tool.

Looking at the game before I played it, I didn't really understand how the game worked. But as soon as I got my hands on it, suddenly it was an intuitive system or glorious movement. There's a delicious adrenaline rush for a smooth finish of a level that you've been banging your head against.

I advise turning the motion controls on for fine tuning your aim, making it much easier to chain your actions together smoothly. The game also helps you to improve, each stage has rankings for how fast you finish it. Beating the different times gets different bonuses including a guide for a faster route than may be immediately obvious, as well as leaderboards and ghost times. On top of this there are presents that will appear in the level to collect. These typically take more outrageous platforming choices and ignoring the objectives, but thankfully they're not dependent on beating the clock.

These presents can be given to the other characters you chat with in between flinging yourself around the game. The further you advance your relationships the more you'll see in dialogue and side missions. It's nice to get collectibles that do more than just tick off a list.

 

Progression in the story is dependent on getting gold or ace medals in the levels. Thankfully the requirements for achieving this are not typically that restrictive. I was worried it'd demand ridiculous levels of skill from me, but fortunately the game is designed in such a way that you end up feeling like a high level speedrunner who has honed their skills for years, even though I certainly have average FPS skills at my best.

Some games really nail the feel of playing them, that heady rush of being in the zone, Neon White feeds that feeling throughout. It constructs its playgrounds perfectly to ensure the best route to the finish is also the most satisfying to take. If you find yourself in the middle of a level and you're slowly meandering to the next section, you've definitely taken a wrong turn somewhere. A quick stab of the minus button and a speedy restart, find the right path and remember "gotta go fast".