The Steam reviews for Neon White are "Overwhelmingly Positive," but within those positive reviews is an unusual amount of division. Almost everyone who's reviewed it loves the first-person platforming and shooting levels, but only a portion of those players also want to be stepped on by an anime character. It's nice when two groups find common ground, isn't it?
Neon White's story is advanced through visual novel-style conversations, which is either a main attraction or just a wrapper for its FPS platforming levels, depending on your perspective. I'm digging the platforming. It's hard to resist the urge to replay a level until you take the top spot on your friends leaderboard, besting someone you met in Team Fortress 2 a decade ago for reasons it feels impossible to explain. Several of my Steam friends have clearly spent some time replaying Neon White levels, striving for a perfect run. Early levels are as short as 10 seconds, but with more effort and ingenuity, maybe that can be 9.8 seconds?
It's a lot like one of my favorite games, Lovely Planet. Your goal is the same in both: Run and jump toward each level's finish line as fast as you can without leaving any enemies alive. The big difference is that Lovely Planet equips you with a pellet gun, whereas you can pick up new weapons, represented by cards, as you move through levels in Neon White. The cool part of that twist is that discarding a weapon card activates a special move. You can sacrifice a pistol to jump in mid-air, for example, and reaching certain ledges requires tossing multiple pistols aside. As another example, a rifle called Godspeed can be chucked to dash horizontally across gaps and through barriers, but you're going to want to no-scope the demons on the other side first. Creatively using and discarding these weapons opens up new paths that can shave seconds off your best time. It's a lot of fun.
Once you've cleared a set of levels, though, it's anime time. Between missions, you can (or must) chat with other characters in visual novel-style segments which are full of hammy voice acting, self-aware anime clichés (sweatdrop sweatdrop), and phrases like "the vibes are immaculate." Neon White's premise wouldn't stand out in Crunchyroll's library of nonsense, but is otherwise delightfully absurd: After they die, powerful sinners are conscripted into a fighting squad and forced to clear out heaven's seasonal demon infestation (via timed platforming challenges), and the best demon-killer sinner gets to stay in God's domain. You're one of those sinners. Also, you have amnesia, but the members of your gang of sinners, who all apparently died and went to heaven at the same time, have retained their memories. And they're all pretty horny.
"It's basically like watching Toonami while wearing a ratty Hot Topic T-shirt," said one Steam reviewer who seemingly enjoyed that vibe.
"Finally, I get to play the anime from 2002 that I'd be embarrassed to say I watched in 2022," wrote another.
Those are meant as positive comments, if it wasn't clear, although other Steam reviewers praise Neon White's writing and voice acting in more sincere and straightforward terms. And others still just want one of the characters to marry them, particularly the sniper-rifle wielding Neon Red.
More excerpts from Neon White's positive Steam reviews:
- "It's literally the opposite of Hades. Everyone's still hot though, don't worry."
- "Characters are obnoxious. But Neon Red is hot."
- "I would let Neon Red shove her sniper rifle down my throat."
- "Marry me Red pls I BEG YOU."
Publisher Annapurna Interactive is leaning into the game's attempt to speedrun the establishment of a horny fandom.
pic.twitter.com/ltfV9roOsSJune 22, 2022
Personally, I just want to play the platforming levels. You can fast-forward through the visual novel bits, but it takes a while. I'm not alone in wishing I could skip the chit-chat, although some of the Steam reviewers are harsher than I probably would be. The dialogue is described as "cringey," "abysmal," and "terminally online" in some of Neon White's user reviews—and these are positive reviews, which shows how into the platforming the reviewers are.
There are a handful of thumbs downs on Steam, as well, but not many. Out of 1,621 total Steam user reviews for Neon White as I write this, only 30 are negative. That's less than 2%.
There's also one aspect of Neon White that doesn't appear to be controversial at all: the soundtrack by electronic punk duo Machine Girl, which everyone seems to love.
Our own Neon White review is coming soon. I'm curious to find out about the kinds of gun-discard combos that become possible in later levels, because the positive response on Steam suggests that Neon White finds ways to satisfy at least some of the potential I'm sensing in the early stages. It may be a while before I get much further myself, though: I could spend days trying to knock current and former PC Gamer co-workers down the leaderboard in the tutorial levels before moving on.
If you're on the fence about Neon White, maybe watching the animated intro video embedded below will give you the information you need to make a decision. It's $25 on Steam, minus a few dollars if you buy it during the launch sale.