Neon White – No Punctuation

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Oh Yahtzee, you should be doing Diablo Immortal. It’s a bit boring and the camera zooms in too close, and it’s also the most insidious work of evil ever squeezed out of BeelzeBlizzard’s black thorny anus. Sounds like you already know what you’re thinking, viewers. Why waste myself all week to reformulate the established general opinion through a lens of dick jokes and gradually change the title to something irreverent. You know what, let’s just list all the things I would have called it by now: Diablo Immortal, Diablo Immoral, Diablo Impoverishing, Diablo Income Statement, Diablo In A Gadda Da Vida Baby. Now let’s move on and try spreading a little much needed positivity instead. And you know what makes me feel positive: new indie games that I had never heard of, but that I do like. The Escapist has a common list of games I have to review that I always try to steal the juiciest carrots before the 3MR guys get sober on Monday mornings, and Neon White caught my eye when it described itself as a first person speedrunning shooter. And I have a growing interest in speedrunners, mainly because I feel like someone needs to keep an eye on these people before there’s an unexpected shortage of Mountain Dew and they burn down all our cities.

And after playing it, yes, I suppose you could call Neon White a first person shooter because it’s first person and you shoot stuff, but the enemies can’t move and have all the dynamic characterization of the hurdles on a sprint track. It is truly a first person speed puzzle platformer where in each level the challenge is to divert the fastest route to splatter all the obligatory kills and reach the exit. The unique gameplay mechanic is that you pick up weapon cards that you either shoot in that usual boring way of weapons or discard them to use some sort of traversal power unique to that weapon – the pistol gives a double jump, the rifle a midair dash, the rocket launcher has a grappling hook, which means if it also skips the shrimp cocktail flavor from its hilt, I wouldn’t officially need anything else in my life. And I definitely see the continuous line at the heart of this idea. There’s something intrinsically cool, if not very eco-friendly, about disposing of used weapons in the middle of an action sequence. Like in the lobby scene in the first Matrix movie, or that one guy from Overwatch who supposedly carries more spare guns than a lost property section of an American high school.

Why the weapons should be presented as cards is a little less clear to me; maybe if you can somehow describe yourself as a “card fighter” then you are entitled to a government tax break from indie games. And the last ingredient is a visual new element, (spit). No, it’s fine, I think. It’s okay to split the intense speedrunning challenges with a bit of downtime hanging out with some anime characters, or rather, characters from a webcomic drawn by a freshman who watches too much anime. I don’t hate the story, it’s just a littleā€¦ youthful, I guess. You play an edgy dude in a suit with too many straps, voiced by the awesome Steve Blum in his Cowboy Bebop hat, and he was once part of a CRIME GANG that operated more along the lines of a treehouse club for best friends, and consisted of swamp standard archetypes: slacker idiot friend, hot girl, rowdy girl. Loud girl with the usual slightly ill-advised student web comic definition of insanity: liking violence, having staring eyes and generally acting like a manic twelve-year-old who recently got his head stuck in a jelly belly dispenser.

Still, at least the plot is pretty easy to understand. Our hero, White, named after his favorite Beatles album, is dead and in purgatory, but he and his chromatic comrades are being called to heaven for being like the greatest crime-fighting treehouse club ever, you and they are needed to fight against an invasion of demons and whoever does his best may remain in heaven as God’s personal Pied Piper. Lots of Neon White gives me a Suda51 vibe. The upbeat tone, the visual style, the grandiose theme, the way each character is a super cool hit man, because apparently Suda51 doesn’t know other jobs exist, it’s just the story and writing that makes that slightly eye-roll-inducing wannime vibe. Wannime is when something non-Japanese affects the look of Japanese anime, just to save you a trip to the glossary, and when I looked up the developers to confirm they weren’t Japanese, the lead designer turned out to be Ben Esposito, the dude who made Donut County and a few other things, but which I mainly remember because his last name would be a really good name for a spaceship. “Captain, we have confirmation that the Andromedan plague larvae have completely overrun Esposito Station.”

But I digress. To repeat myself, I didn’t mind the anime thing, even if at times you can physically feel it constantly craving the beach episode. I even felt motivated to find all the hidden presents in each level to unlock each bonus talk. It is not a complex relationship system; each character has only one gift they like. Personally, if I got nineteen bottles of perfume I would take that as an excavation of my personal hygiene, but it really opened up the love interest of hot girls, in different senses of the word. Not that I took the time to find hidden presents and gold stars on each level, just to wet a fictional character’s crotch. I did it because it was fun to do. Plus, there are bonus challenge levels that you can only get from the relationship tracks and that meant even more fun for me. PLEASURE. F, U, N. Provides merriment or amusement. Look it up, games industry. In this era of rampant Jiminy Cockthroatism, I’ve made it clear time and again that I have a lot more time for a game that focuses on doing one thing well than for bloated, over-designed spunk salads that try to cater to shooter players and stealth players at the same time and single players and multiplayers and players who just want to sit in the corner and shove ants up their noses.

The core gameplay loop of Neon White isn’t complicated, but it’s fun and cathartic and challenging, and the visual new bits don’t interrupt it so much, but provide the necessary pauses to let you catch your breath and take a Gatorade. drinks. And the game is nicely focused on the intended speedrunning experience. Maybe sometimes to an error. I might have appreciated a few slightly more free-form levels that focus more on stylish demon shooting than following a very specific linear path to the end, but Neon White wants to be a more fast-paced puzzle game than a shooter and I’m fine with that . Could more of us be so sure of what they want. Plop yourself down in my barber chair and say “Number three buzz cut!” and I’m like “Yes sir!” Better than games that come in and go “Oh I don’t know, make half of my head short and the other half curly and spray the top part green and the bottom part the color of your choice so you get a sense of personal ownership of my haircut.” And then I’m like, “Bitch, don’t come in here with your complete indecision and say it’s in my favour. Don’t put half a pineapple in my piss hole and don’t call it juice.”

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