Neon White Review

Like an anime bat out of electronic hell.
Neon White Header

Don’t call Neon White a boomer shooter. Sure, this is a twitchy, high-octane, first-person action game, but it’s hardly a shooter, and it definitely isn’t for boomers. The sounds and style of Neon White evoke a specific feeling for a specific kind of person that games are barely made for anymore – that person who grew up sneaking to the TV to watch Toonami when they were way too young to be up that late, who stalked the manga section at Borders or Barnes & Noble every weekend while rocking an ill-fitting My Chemical Romance shirt. Neon White was made for freaks and misfits who grew up on the internet, but if you’re not in that demographic, don’t worry – it’s still one of the most exciting, addicting, and stylish game you’ll play all year.

From the jump, Neon White shows you what you’re in for with a stylish anime-inspired opening video narrated by Steve Blum and dressed with blood-igniting music by Machine Girl. These two names form the audio heart of Neon White. Steve Blum is the voice of 2000s anime, having starred in Cowboy Bebop, Samurai Champloo & more. Here, he voices titular protagonist, Neon White – an amnesiac sinner from Hell, temporarily sent up to Heaven to compete with other “Neon” sinners to slay demons and earn the right to stay there.

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Blum’s casting as White isn’t just a nostalgic stunt, as he brings an incredible nuance to the character, who puts on an edgy Spike Spiegel-front despite actually being a golden retriever-style softie with a love for niche foreign music and a weakness for manipulative women. It’s awesome hearing Blum nail that balance, sprinkling a hint of inexperienced sincerity into the cool guy moments and a pound of awkward dude-energy into the lame-boy moments. The rest of the voice cast is a delight, too.

Neon White Dialogue

Machine Girl, meanwhile, will melt your face off. The New York electronic music group has never composed a game soundtrack before, but like the Tron Legacy score by Daft Punk, you’d be convinced they’ve done it for years. This isn’t a case of snagging a dozen licensed songs from the group and calling it a day – Machine Girl has crafted over 50 tracks for the game, ranging from chill and melodic cutscene background to the amped and twisted tracks you hear as you run and jump through each stage of the game. Their music is like the indie electronic sister to a Doom Eternal soundtrack – sonically very different, but still perfectly crafted to make you whisper “Oh, hell yes” as the beat kicks in and you soar through a tough level.

Soaring (and gliding and jumping and sliding) is most of what you do in a Neon White level. You have guns, sure, but each stage lasts less than a minute and it’s not necessarily focused on gunplay or swarming enemies. In each perfectly hand-crafted level, there are gun-cards scattered along your path to the exit that you’ll pick up to equip various weapons. The primary fire on each of these will just shoot bullets, letting you dispatch the requisite stationary demons on each stage to unlock the exit. Your alt fire, though, is the real business.

Each weapon card’s alt fire, or “Discard ability”, grants you an immediate traversal ability at the cost of destroying that card. A pistol gives you a double-jump, a rifle darts you forward, a machine-gun drops a bomb that propels you up into the air – and so on. What this culminates in is each stage being designed for you to navigate to the exit as swiftly and stylishly as possible, like an anime bat out of electronic hell.

Neon White FPS platformer

It’s a special loop of millisecond-measuring speed-run platforming that never gets old, and never gets frustrating. Cards, enemies, and platforms are always smartly placed to encourage an immediately approachable and understandable path to victory that still leaves you feeling like a badass. You can clear the stage once, probably get a decent score, and move on if you choose, but if you feel the itch to do better, the game is ready for you.

Each level has so many incentives to encourage score-chasing and replays. You can aim for an Ace score on each level, follow hint-markers to navigate an alternate path to the exit, compete for times with your friends or the entire world, and even hunt down secret gifts on each stage. The gifts are my favorite, because they encourage a whole different way of play, forgoing speed-running and demon-slaying for puzzle-like platforming challenges in order to reach the just-out-of-reach presents. Snagging these is worth it as you can give them to various NPCs in the game to unlock fun new dialogue and devilish side quests.

Neon White Alt Fire

Neon White genuinely feels like it was plucked out of a long-dormant corner of my brain. I am that person I described at the beginning of this review – I stayed up past my bedtime for Toonami, I grabbed every Bleach volume at Borders, I wore My Chemical Romance shirts and spent hours discussing Hatsune Miku on Gaia Online. Plenty of indie games manage to tug at my heart strings with a relatable protagonist or an endearing story, but very few games feel like a top-to-bottom vibe match like Neon White does. This game takes all the stuff I thought was cool when I was a teen and reminds me that, hell yes, that stuff is still cool. If you’re on that same wavelength, Neon White will feel like a revelation. If this paragraph doesn’t even sound like English to you, don’t worry, because Neon White will still probably land on your GOTY list.

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Summary
Neon White is a love letter to turn-of-the-decade internet weirdos. It's full of rule-of-cool anime nostalgia, ear-shredding electronic music, and dialogue ripped straight out of my group chats. It's a genuine game made for an audience rarely prioritised, but even if you don't fit the archetypical person this game was made for, you're still in for the most stylish and satisfying action-platformer I've ever experienced.
Good
  • Perfectly crafted speed-platforming gameplay
  • Authentic, awesome, hyper-niche aesthetic
  • Incredible, face-melting Machine Girl soundtrack
  • Endearing writing and unforgettable characters
Bad
  • Boomers will require Adderall to play this "boomer shooter"
10
Written by
I'm a writer, voice actor, and 3D artist living la vida loca in New York City. I'm into a pretty wide variety of games, and shows, and films, and music, and comics and anime. Anime and video games are my biggest vice, though, so feel free to talk to me about those. Bury me with my money.

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