Neon White Is A Gateway Speedrunning Drug | Best Games of 2022

Neon White
Neon White

As 2022 comes to a close, we’re reeling off the games that have resonated with us the most over the last twelves months. Next up: speedrunning with your Tumblr faves in Neon White.

2022 has to go down as the year in which I discovered just how fun cards as a mechanic can be in a game. Whether in fully-fledged CCGs or as a major part of games like Midnight Suns, it feels like people are really starting to embrace them when once they were seen as deeply, deeply uncool. One of the coolest games of 2022 also uses cards to novel effect: Neon White.

Developed by Angel Matrix, Neon White pits you as the titular White, who’s just arrived in the afterlife with a severe case of the shooties and amnesia. Over time, you will fill in White’s backstory by taking part in charming conversations with his “colleagues,” giving them gifts, and even going on activities. While your enjoyment of the dialogue will come down to just how down with social media lingo and generally ironic you are, each character is absolute bursting with life, especially my guy Yellow.

That’s not really what Neon White is all about, though, and is really a fun side activity to help you take a breather between the main meat of the game: trying to break some records.

Neon White
Neon White

The hook of Neon White is one of constantly one-upmanship, whether you’re trying to beat the scores set by the developers themselves or your friends. As someone who seldom has time to replay anything (I will complete a Mass Effect Renegade playthrough one of these days), I found myself dumping hours upon hours into Neon White to shave off milliseconds here and there. The levels are short, a lot of them less than half a minute long, but you might spend hours trying to perfect it and eke out just a fractionally better time and have a whale of a time, too.

Neon White is so captivating because of the way it utilises cards, which is basically as a fancier, limited-use pickup that you’d see in an arena shooter of old. However, what makes grinding out better times so compelling is finding a route you might have overlooked, some secondary use for a card that you might not have twigged, and then putting it all together as fluidly as possible. While Neon White’s levels may seem short and basic to begin with, they’ve actually been designed to be more like those pipes screensavers you’d find on Windows 95.

The game’s vibe is also hard to overlook, as it feels very much like an early 2000s arcade game. From the Eurodance soundtrack to the tight gameplay to the overall colour palette, this is a game that wears its Dreamcast-era influences on its sleeve. If you miss the vibes from games like Crazy Taxi and Jet Set Radio, Neon White should be quite the nostaglia-inducing ride that still feels totally modern.

Even if you don’t typically care about speedrunning or even FPS games in general, Neon White’s almost endless replayability and sincerely goofy cast of characters makes it one of 2022’s most refreshing hits. And who knows, maybe I’ll see you at GDQ 2023.

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