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And after playing it, yes I suppose you could call neon White a First Person Shooter in that It’s First Person and You Shoot Things, But the Enemies Can’t Move and have all the Dynamic Characterization of the Hurdles on Sprinting Track. Really it’s a first person speed puzzle platformer, where in each level the challenge is to deduce the quickest route to splatter all the mandatory kills and hit the exit. The unique gameplay mechanic is that you pick up gun cards that you either shoot in that usual boring way of guns or throw away to use some kind of traversal power unique to that gun – the pistol grants a double jump, the rifle a midair dash, the rocket launcher has a grappling hook which means that if it also dispensed prawn cocktail flavor skips from its hilt then I would officially need nothing else in my life. And i can definitely see the through line at the core of this idea. There’s something intrinsically cool, if not terribly environmentally friendly, about throwing spent guns away in the middle of an action scene. Like in the lobby scene in the first Matrix film, or that one dude from Overwatch who presumably has more spare guns on him than an American high school lost property department.
But I digress. Just to repeat myself, I didn’t mind the anime stuff even when at times you can fucking physically sense its constant hankering to get to the beach episode. In fact I felt motivated to find all the hidden presents in each level to unlock every bonus conversation. It’s not a complex relationshipship system; Each Character Only has one gift that they like. Personally if I were given nineteen bottles of perfume, I’d take that as a dig at my personal hygiene, but it really made hot girl love interest open up, in several senses of the phrase. Not that I took time out to find hidden presents and gold star every level just for the sake of moistening a fictional character’s gusset. I did it because it was fun to do. Plus, there are bonus challenge levels you can only get from the relationship tracks and that meant even more fun for me. FUN. F, U, N. Provides mirth or amusement. Look it up, games industry. In this age of rampant Jiminy Cockthroatism I’ve made it clear over and over again that I have far more time for a game that focusses on doing one thing well than I do for bloated overdesigned spunksalads that try to simultaneously cater to shooter players and stealth players and single players and multiplayers and players who just want to sit in the corner pushing ants up their noses.
Neon White’s core gameplay loop isn’t complicated but it’s fun and cathartic and challenging, and the visual novel bits don’t interrupt it so much as provide necessary breaks to let you get your breath back and quaff a Gatorade. And the game is nicely focused on its intended speedrunning experience. Perhaps to a fault at times. I might have appreciated a few slightly more freeform levels that focus more on stylish demon shooting than on following one highly specific linear path to the end, but Neon White wants to be more speed puzzle game than shooter and that’s fine with me. Would that more of us could be so certain of what they want. Plonk yourself down in my barber’s 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 my head short and the other half curly and spray paint the top part green and the bottom part the color of your choice so that you have a sense of personal ownership of my haircut.” And then I’m like “Bitch, don’t come in here with your complete indecisiveness and say it’s for my benefit. Don’t shove half a pineapple up my pisshole and call it a juice cleanse.”