Neon White Review: Demon Hunt Speedrunning on Switch and Steam

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Neon White Review: Demon Hunt Speedrunning on Switch and Steam

neon white made me strain my neck with every seemingly unreachable jump – and I couldn’t get enough. Developed by Angel Matrix, a small team led by Donut County designer Ben Esposito, neon white combines exciting parkour action from the late 90s quake-Style aesthetics and a crazy story that’s kind of like if The purge were settled in the afterlife. It’s like speeding through heaven while taking detours to learn more about angels and demons. It’s a seemingly odd combination, but it works very, very well.

The premise of neon white is actually a bit straight forward at its core. From time to time, God invites some of the denizens of hell to heaven for a 10-day period so they can help eradicate the demon population. Whoever collects the most kills gets the ultimate prize: a place in heaven. These demon hunters are called neons, and like any other competition, they form rivalries and shaky alliances as the event progresses. To make matters worse, your character, Neon White, has lost his memory and therefore has no idea who to trust.

As weird as it is awesome, the story plays out mostly like a visual novel, with some hilarious lyrics and delicious treacheries. There is even persona-style side quests where you can give gifts to learn more about your fellow neons. Also, for some reason, all angels look like swimming cats.

That’s the setup, but you’ll spend most of your time on missions. These are small platform levels where the aim is to kill every single demon as fast as possible. And you are very Fast – stages are generally less than a minute long and most will have you cutting your time down to less than 20-30 seconds. For the most part, the levels are extreme vertical parkour playgrounds, and as you progress through them you’ll collect cards representing various weapons, from machine guns to shotguns.

neon white but it’s not really a shooter. Once you get used to the special nature of the action – which admittedly can take some time – you’ll realize that it’s all just a means to get through the level even faster. For example, most weapons have a secondary ability that allows you to double jump, zoom through the air, or smash the ground. Enemies, meanwhile, will drop specific weapons, and some have their own mobility features as well. (There’s a sort of demon that’s just a floating balloon you can hop on.) The trick is figuring out how to tie all of this together to find the best and quickest way through the stage.

I didn’t realize all of that at first. Initially, I chaotically sped through each level trying to kill each demon and move on to the next story beat. But at a certain point neon white forces you to learn how it really works. In order to advance in the narrative, you need to reach a certain rank of Neon, which in turn means you’ll get good times on most levels. I had to replay older tiers to increase my rank.

neon white.
Image: Annapurna Interactive

That was frustrating at first. I was keen to delve into the mystery of White and how his past life relates to the other neons; Instead, here I was trying to shave two seconds off a run through a heavenly parkour playground. But as tedious as it seemed at first, those forced replays showed me how the game really works – and now I actually do want repeating stages until I’ve perfected my run. History can wait. Knowing all the ins and outs of gameplay is not only fun and satisfying; It also becomes a necessity once you’re thrown into a boss fight.

I should also point out that repetition is a key part of neon whiteDue to the structure of there is a degree of openness, so you are not forced to achieve a perfect score at every stage. And because everything moves so quickly — not only are the stages short, but you can start over almost immediately — those reps are a lot less frustrating than they might otherwise be.

On paper, neon white sounds strange and confusing. It’s a demon chasing parkour shooter where you run through the sky to get a high score. It’s also a visual novel. But in practice it’s very simple: each level is a puzzle and it’s your job to figure out how to use the different components to get the best time. It may take time and a few encounters with giant heads firing lasers at you, but it’s incredibly satisfying when you pull it off – even if it does result in a bit of neck pain.

neon white launches June 16th on Nintendo Switch and Steam.

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