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 fast racing 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 must say that I am intrigued.
Neon White has you running, jumping, and shooting from a first-person perspective, but the levels are short. Most can be completed in less than a minute. The idea is to play and replay each level, earning rewards as you build an optimal path to completion, reducing your completion time as you go.
Screens – Neon White
Between levels, the story unfolds like a visual novel as you learn what’s going on 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 color-based nicknames. You can chat with other characters in a central area called Central Heaven.
stairway to Heaven
A unique aspect of Neon White is the weapon and ability system. In each level, you will pick up various cards that represent weapons that you can use to blast enemies. But each card also has an ability that you can use by discarding it. These abilities are crucial to completing levels as quickly as possible.
For example, the Elevation card lets you fire a pistol, but throwing it lets you double jump. The Godspeed card is a sniper rifle, but if you remove it, you get a horizontal dash in the air. Or, if you fancy something more explosive, the Dominion map works like a rocket launcher. Throw it in and you can zipline to any surface. There is a lot of variety, but the cards are placed in fixed places in each level, which limits your possibilities.
To encourage you to play multiple times through the levels, the game offers a variety of rewards that you can obtain. Finish within a certain amount of time, for example, and you’ll unlock the leaderboard, or your best race ghost, so you can race against it for a better time.
Each level also has a hidden prize in an out of the way area. Prizes can be offered to other assassins between levels to strengthen your relationships. Developing better relationships unlocks 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 more difficult than the standard levels and revolve around certain themes. For example, Violet’s levels are full of spikes that you have to dodge as you jump from platform to platform. In Jaune’s side quests, you cannot use your card abilities. Instead, you have to find clever ways to use enemies and weapons to reach the end.
Neon White is looking pretty good so far, and I can’t wait to hang out with him to see how he plays for me. It is set to release on Nintendo Switch and PC later this year.
Chris Reed is a Commerce Editor for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @_chrislreed.