neon white, out now on Switch and PC, is easily one of the best games of the year. Between anime vibes and the Machine Girl soundtrack, you’ll find a delightfully stylish speedrunning glove that’s as easy to learn as it is hard to master. For the past few days, I haven’t been able to let go. Here are some tips I wish I had known before I started.
Don’t consider him a shooter
Publisher Annapurna Interactive May technically charge neon white as “FPS speedrunning”, but that’s not quite it. It’s definitely not your typical first-person shooter. Instead, think of each level – in which you have to make it from start to finish and kill every demon you see along the way – as a puzzle with a solution. Your objective is to find the fastest route, then… to complete it. The sooner you rewire your brain away from a Loss state of mind, the better neon white you will be.
Cards are placed intentionally
You pick up guns in neon white by browsing through the cards scattered across the map. But every gun is not just a gun. Throwing it will also give you a single-use traversal ability – a pistol that turns into a double jump, an SMG that turns into a ground book, and so on. Most often, these cards are placed exactly where they need to be for you to use them. In other words, if you pick up a gun that turns into a dash, be prepared to launch.
Your deck is limited
For fear of having a bad idea, neon white is categorically not a deck building game. You can only carry two types of cards in your hand, although you can (in my testing) hold an unlimited number of each card. Your hand is cleaned at the end of each level. Sure, you have a permanent card for a sword, but…
Melee attacks suck
You start each level with your sword, and you can’t get rid of it. It is functionally useless in combat; don’t waste your time trying to use it to kill demons. But if you want to save ammo, you can use your sword to hit various useful in-game items – explosive barrels, chests (which usually contain maps for guns), etc.
Nail a run before trying to perfect it
Even if you know you’re going to complete a level with terrible weather, it’s worth going through. Simply completing the level will give you the Bronze Medal, show you the times it takes to land Silver, Gold, or Ace Medals, and unlock the option to replay that level and find its gift (more about that in a second). Beating the money time will spawn a specter that will recreate your previous fastest route, giving you a personal benchmark to compete against the mid-point. The gold gives you a hint for the level, very useful for understanding how to squeeze the ace. And if you do that, you’ll be able to see the leaderboards for that level – that’s when the real game begins. (Beating your friends by a millisecond is a thrill.)
Earn gold medals
At certain times of neon white you’ll encounter a level gate: To unlock more missions, you need to increase something called your neon rank, your measure against all other fictional characters in the game’s history. You start at 100th place. Each time you land a Gold or Ace, you move up one position. It’s much easier to get a gold at an early level that you’ve already gone through than to try it first at a later level.
Replaying levels you’ve completed also allows you to find gifts, which you can then give to other characters in the game, dating sim style. This will strengthen your relationship with them, eventually unlocking side quests, usually a skill-based trial. But in the mere fact of finding gifts, neon white becomes more about exploration than racing. There is no pressure to set a best time. (Once you find the gift, the level ends.) You just rummage around, trying to find a brightly colored box with a bow on it. neon whiteit turns out to be very, very pretty when you slow down and take in the view.
Bonus tip: when looking for a gift, keep all the weapons you have. Also, try to reach the highest point of the level. You can sometimes see the reflection of the gift, in the shape of a brightly colored box.
Attack Vending Machines For Extra Weapons
Most levels have vending machines hidden in certain corners. Hitting one will give you a card, usually the one you need to reach the level’s hidden gift. If you try to set a fast time and have the leeway to interact with a vending machine, you have already failed. But these are extremely useful for granting extra traversal hints that will allow you to find gifts.
All the explosions throw you
You can throw an assault rifle to plant a bomb where your cursor is. neon white says you can launch yourself by jumping on it just as the explosion happens, which is true, but you don’t have to time a jump either. Simply standing next to an explosion of any kind will automatically propel you into the air and much higher than you can normally jump. There are ways to use this knowledge to surprisingly useful effect. For example, hitting the ground on an explosive barrel will send you quite high. Pounding the ground on of them explosive barrels will send you even higher (exact measurements yet to be determined). And you won’t take any splash damage, so experiment with explosives to your heart’s content.
Try not to multitask IRL
Because the levels in neon white are so brief, usually lasting 30 seconds each, that you might feel like it’s an ideal game for multitasking – you know, send a few emails, play a level, pick up some work, play some a level, etc. Uh, yeah, about that. Once you start playing, it can eat up your time before you know it, and whatever you’re trying to “multitask” will be totally left out. You have been warned!