I don’t assume I’ve ever performed one thing that blends genres fairly like Neon White. Let me attempt to summarize the sport: you play as a demon hunter who destroys baddies in heaven through the use of playing cards that function both weapons or particular motion skills, and the objective is to get by means of every stage as quick as you probably can. It’s half first-person shooter, half first-person platformer, half puzzler, half card sport, half time assault, and even half visible novel.
I’ve struggled to provide you with a greater description, however in an interview, Neon White artistic director Ben Esposito lastly gave me one: “a very gamey sport.”
“It’s a very unlikely sport,” he stated. “It’s a very gamey sport that’s filled with gamey issues. However the mixture of components is one thing that nobody requested for.” I believe he’s obtained some extent there — the concept of a sport that mixes first-person motion with a race in opposition to the clock that’s backed by an enthralling story sounds ridiculous even in my wildest goals.
In a video launched final 12 months, Esposito talked about Neon White being a sport “for freaks,” and I requested him what he meant by that. “We needed to make one thing that was distinctive and felt contemporary however nonetheless felt prefer it was utilizing the historical past of video video games, particularly late-‘90s / early-2000s Japanese video games, as an enormous inspiration,” he stated. “We speak about it being for freaks as a result of it’s a must to be open-minded and it’s a must to be into bizarre, mid-to-low finances tropes and cliches. It may not be as dignified as one other sport.”
Neon White is Esposito’s follow-up to Donut County, a pleasant however far less complicated sport the place you play as a gap. Donut County is deliberately very accessible. “A part of Donut County’s design was that somebody who was 4 years previous might play it,” Esposito advised me. So with Neon White, he went in a unique path. “I needed to problem myself to do one thing actually totally different, which was to make a sport that was far more about methods and gameplay and pure enjoyable.” As a substitute of attempting to make one other sport that attempted to serve everybody, “I’m going to attempt to serve me after I was in center college,” he stated.
Neon White definitely would have served me in center college. As a child, I performed by means of Star Fox 64 numerous occasions to attempt to get a greater excessive rating, and Neon White lets me chase the highest of the leaderboards and really feel extraordinarily cool doing it.
However past the gameplay and aesthetic, what actually saved me taking part in Neon White have been the a number of little discoveries in every stage. Most take lower than a minute to beat, so it’s simple to follow them again and again with out feeling such as you’re losing time. With every repeated run, you may discover a new approach to save fractions of a second when going round a nook or perhaps a important shortcut that cuts seconds off your time. There’s a bonus present merchandise — a literal gift-wrapped package deal — hidden in every stage as effectively, and they are often given to characters to unlock new dialogue and missions.
It’s simple to get right into a move state whereas taking part in the sport, and that’s by design. “Our objective with the degrees and the gameplay total was to make it actually clear,” Esposito stated. “The whole lot needed to be actually, actually clear and simple.” That means the sport might extra simply pull gamers into what Esposito referred to as the “pace zone.” The crew introduced in some speedrunners to check ranges however discovered it extra helpful to check with common ability stage gamers as an alternative. “Speedrunners will determine it out ultimately. They love ache,” he stated. “However the common particular person must get pulled alongside.”
Neon White additionally oozes type, and I needed to ask about certainly one of my favourite smaller particulars of the sport: the “mission full” sequence. After you beat a set of ranges, a brief cutscene performs the place the primary character flips in entrance of the digicam, says the identical foolish one-liner, and the phrases “MISSION COMPLETE” fade throughout the display. It looks like a relic from my childhood that I’d look again on fondly, but it surely’s proper right here in a sport launched in 2022. “That sort of victory dance animation, with a sound cue and that repeated sound chunk that he says each single time, to me, that’s so video video games,” Esposito stated.
The whole lot in Neon White appears to be born from that philosophy. “The factor that’s the core of the sport to me is this concept of being probably the most video video games sport potential,” Esposito stated. “Not everybody appreciates that we made selections that you simply’d usually take into account to be unhealthy selections if you’re making a sport. We did them on function. This sport is meant to be contemporary. It’s an authentic thought and it’s a brand new sort of gameplay, but it surely’s additionally meant to have a good time the bizarre and screwed up and nonsensical elements of video video games that made them so enjoyable.”