Reviews - Updated on June 28, 2022

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The biggest hit of the summer?

Many have probably already heard, including from our news, about the fresh hit Neon White, which broke Steam with almost the highest ratings and reviews in recent times. About the debut project of the Angel Matrix studio, they write that it is as if Persona 5 slept right away with Quake III, DOOM Eternal and Mirror’s Edge, and then covered up with a visual novel mixed with a dating sim and a card game. So what exactly is this cocktail?

Knockin ‘on Heaven

Stylistically and conceptually, Neon White is very good, and at first you can’t even believe that this is the debut work of an unknown, recently formed studio. When you find out that Ben Esposito also worked on the game, who was involved in the game design of What Remains of Edith Finch and The Unfinished Swan, everything does not quite fall into place, but it clears up. Yes, Neon White is completely different in style, theme and atmosphere, but, as they say, he is a master in everything, and talent is visible everywhere.

It is clear that the first thing that catches your eye is the resemblance to Persona 5 – the artsy anime style, masks, the theme of atonement for sins, active communication with characters in between missions … You can also recall the work of Goichi Suda and his Killer7. But here the similarity is more external, because the plot and themes in Neon White are more simple and mundane, or something, although the action takes place in heaven.

Doesn't it remind you of anything?

Doesn’t it remind you of anything?

We play for one of the sinners, the titular Neon White, who, after death, the angels offered to take part in the competition – along with other sinners (they are all called neon here and one color or another is added), demons must be exterminated, and the best fighter will receive redemption and the opportunity to stay in heaven. A ticket to paradise is designed for at least a year.

Our hero, of course, agrees. Moreover, he doesn’t really remember anything, but he really wants to remember everything. He meets other neon – Purple, Yellow and Red. All of them hint that during their lifetime they were not just acquaintances – they were accomplices, hired killers (I immediately recall Reservoir Dogs, where we saw Mr. White, Mr. Pink and other “colored” bandits).

The anime style here is very thoroughbred.

The anime style here is very thoroughbred.

Close communication with them and the ability to give gifts to improve relationships and lead them to new dialogue and new memories are one of the cornerstones of the gameplay and the whole concept of Neon White. And this is where philosophy (well, almost!) and depth begin, unlike almost any part of Persona, but an anime skit. Although, another word could be inserted instead of “anime”, because toilet and black humor do not have a strict genre affiliation.

Yes, there are not that unsuccessful jokes – they are just toilets. But there are also successful ones (for example, related to gaming jokes). And how amusingly paradise is shown here, where angels sell ice cream, sit in the heavenly office with a secretary at the entrance and are mainly presented in the form of cats floating on portable clouds! Some can be driven to white heat by asking if aliens exist and if it’s true that when bells sound, angels get wings.

Yes, the one on the far right is the local angel.

Yes, the one on the far right is the local angel.

And in general, if we discard hypocrisy, do not expect deep metaphors and philosophical peaks from history, but simply accept that we have a hooligan comedy and parody in front of us, then nothing will be especially annoying. Moreover, Yellow is mainly responsible for toilet humor, but communication with Lilova and especially Red is completely different. The first is an outright maniac, but also funny in her own way, ready to torment Bely with idiotic compatibility tests. And the languid Red, which makes you wonder if there was a relationship between them or not, even claims to be the main waifu of the year.

In any case, the plot, despite the fact that some guesses about how it will all end and with whom to meet in the final battle, arise quite early, it still captures – largely thanks to the bright anime characters. And of course, he also captivates with the desire to get the true ending – there are several of them, and much depends on the memories received and on communication with other neons.

Red is a real femme fatale.

Red is a real femme fatale.

Run, White, run!

But about the gameplay, which is the main dish in Neon White, it’s not that you don’t feel like writing so much – it’s just better to see everything yourself, at least in the trailer. The gameplay without any reservations turned out to be freaky and does not cause any controversy. And as comparisons, we need to mention not only DOOM Eternal and Mirror’s Edge, but also Ghostrunner and Severed Steel.

The essence is simple – get to the exit as quickly as possible according to the principle of a speedrun (usually it takes from 15 seconds to a minute), destroying all the demons along the way. Chip – in the use of cards with weapons. Each, in addition to the main shooting mode (from a pistol, rifle, machine gun, and so on), also has an additional one, which is activated when the card is discarded. One allows you to double jump in the air; the other is to quickly teleport horizontally over a fairly long distance, breaking through even some walls; the third is to do a “rocket jump”, throwing a bomb not at the demons, but at one’s feet; the fourth makes a big boom on landing and breaks through the floor.

Excitement and tension are connected with correctly calculating where, how and which cards to use, alternating them on the go. If you spend or discard something in advance (and a standard attack consumes a supply of cards), then you will then face the fact that you simply cannot reach the end, and you will have to start over.

Although in any case, you will have to replay the levels. To access new story missions, you need a certain level of rating, which rises by reaching the shortest time (gold and ace medals are issued for this). Naturally, the global rating is attached.

The dynamics are so frantic that you can easily rush past enemies.

In addition, you can find souvenirs / gifts for the characters and non-obvious shortcuts in the levels. There are also special challenges associated with other Neon side quests. For Lilova, for example, they are associated with overcoming insidious traps. And in one of the tasks, Red is allowed to use only the pistol card. Yes, and after the completion of the plot, you can stay to pass other tests – expanse for speedrunners is huge, because the authors do not particularly limit the options for how you get to the exit.

All this, which is also important, is accompanied by peppy music from Machine Girl, excellent optimization and comfortable controls. The character moves quickly and smoothly, you don’t have to suffer with the exact calculation of jumps – nothing interferes, except for possible problems with your own dexterity, speed and reaction. And the design of almost all levels is magnificent.

Red has a very difficult test.

Neon White is one of the most striking and unexpected discoveries, if not of the whole year, then certainly of this summer. And the game itself is very summery – fast, fresh and hot. The authors boldly and honestly mixed different genres and styles without regard to the fact that someone might not like it or seem inappropriate. And fastened with impeccable, verified gameplay. It is precisely such projects that the industry is lacking today.

Pros: bright, stylish and bold mix of genres; an interesting, sometimes comedy-parody, and sometimes a serious plot; freaky, dynamic gameplay that combines explosive action and card game; music from Machine Girl; chic level design; charismatic characters; convenient management; nice picture.

Cons: not all dialogues and jokes turned out to be successful.

Screenshots of the game

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