At a glance, Neon White might look like a first-person shooter, but it’s not really — or not entirely. It plays like a shooter, but the focus is more on speedrunning through levels. It also pulls elements from the visual novel genre to tell a rather in-depth story. During a recent demo, director Ben Esposito explained how these pieces fit together. I have to say, I’m intrigued.
Neon White does have you running, jumping, and shooting from a first-person perspective, but the levels are short. Most can be completed in under a minute. The idea is to play and replay each level, earning rewards as you chart an optimal path to the end, trimming your completion time as you go.
Between levels, the story plays out like a visual novel as you learn what’s going on along with White, your amnesiac character. It turns out that Heaven, the eternal paradise, has become infested with demons. To exterminate them, God has enlisted a group of assassins from Hell. You play as one of the assassins, all of whom wear masks and have nicknames based on colors. You can chat up the other characters in a hub area called Central Heaven.
Stairway to Heaven
One unique aspect of Neon White is the weapon and ability system. In each level, you’ll pick up various cards that represent weapons you can use to blast enemies. But each card also has an ability you can use by discarding it. These abilities are crucial to completing the levels as fast as possible.
For instance, the Elevate card lets you fire a pistol, but discarding it lets you use a double-jump. The Godspeed card is a precision rifle, but if you scrap it, you get a mid-air horizontal dash. Or, if you’re in the mood for something more explosive, the Dominion card works as a rocket launcher. Discard it, and you can zip-line toward any surface. There’s a lot of variety, but the cards are placed in fixed locations in each level, which limits your possibilities.
To encourage you to play through levels multiple times, the game offers a variety of rewards you can achieve. Finish within a certain time frame, for instance, and you’ll unlock the leaderboard, or the ghost of your best run, so you can race against it to get a better time.
Every level also has a prize hidden in an out-of-the-way area. Prizes can be gifted to other assassins between levels to strengthen your relationships. Developing better relationships opens up its own set of rewards, including new lines of dialogue, memories of your past life, and entirely new levels you can complete as side quests.
These side quests tend to be tougher than the standard levels, and revolve around certain themes. For instance, Violet’s levels are filled with spikes you have to avoid as you jump from platform to platform. In Yellow’s side quests you can’t use your cards’ abilities. Instead, you have to figure out clever ways to use enemies and weapons to reach the end.
Neon White looks pretty good so far, and I’m eager to get some hands-on time with it to see how it plays for myself. It’s set to release for Nintendo Switch and PC later this year.
Chris Reed is a commerce editor for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @_chrislreed.
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Author: Ryan McCaffrey