Neon White is a distinctly different beast from Creative Director Ben Esposito’s previous work on games like Donut County. Together with the rest of the devs at Angel Matrix, they’re making Neon White into an action-packed first-person platform built around speed, cards, and relationships in a chase to escape the icy grip of Hell. I recently got to take a deeper dive into the game with Esposito on deck and came away more excited about the card-driven platform challenges therein.
Even Heaven needs assassins
The premise of Neon White is an interesting one. A number of assassins have been plucked out of Hell for a contest to slay demons. The fastest and most deadly among them can win a chance to live within Heaven. Players play the titular Neon White - a mysterious assassin on a series of missions to slay demons and reach an end goal in the fastest manner possible. You’ll need pinpoint reflexes, but also the smart use of “Soul Cards” that act as both weapons and catalysts for expanded parkour moves. That said, there’s something curious about the other competitors between levels. Along the way, we just might develop bonds with other assassins and celestial citizens that have been roped up in this contest.
During the presentation, Esposito demonstrated a number of Soul Cards and their uses throughout levels. In pretty much every case, a Soul Card represents both a weapon and unique parkour move. You can use a pistol to fire bullets at demons, but you can also discard it to double jump. An machine pistol will give you rapid-fire combat capabilities, but you can also use it to ground pound, destroying foes or weak platforms obscuring the way to your goal. Shotguns can mince opponents at short range or let you burst forth like a fireball. It goes on and on with each new card giving a unique on-the-fly decision to your platforming rush through demon-infested levels.
Levels in Neon White are designed for you to make the most of certain cards to complete them as fast as possible while killing all the demons along the way. Utilizing a card’s combat or parkour capabilities can mean the difference between seconds and crucial goal achievement between level runs in Neon White. It looks like there’s going to be an extremely interesting balance in using these cards effectively in each level.
That wasn’t all though. Esposito also showed off a bit of a social element between levels. When not chasing demons and goals, you can choose to interact with various characters, including other assassins in the competition and further entities. Each offers limited opportunities for you to get to know them better and perhaps even unlock bonuses. We got to see interactions with characters that ended up granting us more background into who they are and their relation to Neon White. There are also choices and gifts involved. Garnering a character’s favor could have major impacts on both the narrative and the cards you have access to as you continue along the game, so it looks like there will be a bit of replayabillity here.
Grim reaper’s sprint
Throughout its reveals, such as at the 2021 Annapurna Interactive showcase, Neon White has looked like a game set on testing our reflexes and snap decision-making with its card-driven weapon/parkour system. Additionally, it was also interesting to see the character dialogue system this time out. Cozying up to certain characters to uncover the mystery of missing memories in Neon White seems like it’s going to be just as intriguing as the challenge each new level and the opportunities each new card presents. With this in mind, we can't wait to see more of what Angel Matrix has in store for us as it chugs along towards Neon White’s release.
This preview is based on a hands-off demonstration of the game by the devs and publishers. Neon White is set to release sometime in 2022 on Nintendo Switch and PC.