If not for Steve Blum’s distinctive voice in the slick trailer for Neon White, I would have waited to see what other people thought of this flashy game that immediately made me think of Phantom Dust. But I let myself get suckered in. Blum is a siren for anime nerds like me. The moment his voice hits your eardrums, you’re entranced. Which is why I am so disappointed that Neon White just isn’t for someone like me.
This action game is a speed runner’s dream. In fact, every single mission is presented as a string of bite-sized jobs. The better your time, the better your score and overall rank. Which is great, in theory. I get that these first jobs are all tutorials. However, the start/stop of running a level, then waiting for the next to load, pulled me out of the game. Especially when Neon White‘s load times took longer than the courses themselves. I thought maybe it was just me. Maybe the reason the game felt like slogging through quicksand was this genre wasn’t for me. So I asked my spouse to run the tutorial section. He came back with the exact same response.
Now my thinking was that things would pick up once I made it to the next area. I ran through the tutorial and made it to the social hub with a rank of 97. After talking to everyone in Central Heaven, I discovered that in order to take on a new mission, my overall rank needed to be 93 or better. At first this didn’t bother me. I planned on rerunning the tutorial segments, because gifts unlocked after the initial stage clear. I collected a couple of gifts, gave them to the correct friends, rinsed and repeated. While I was at it, I did get better and improved a couple of my times. But it was a struggle to feel invested. For something presented in less than a minute intervals of playtime, replaying levels over and over hoping to bump my rank was just too tedious.
Maybe it wouldn’t have been so frustrating if I played the PC version and used a controller I was more familiar with. I’m always mixing up the trigger buttons on the Switch. This led to discarding when I didn’t intend to or using the wrong card. Targeting demons with the right stick wasn’t nearly as smooth as I would have liked too. The stickiness ate into my precious time. Moving White on slick surfaces reminded me of skating. Sometimes I would just waste time sliding around the glassy surface, because it was the most fun (and fluid) part of the experience.
It’s very unfortunate that I hit this road block. Between the writing and voice over work, Neon White‘s story is something I truly wanted to experience. I could even forgive some of the uninspiring design elements, textures, and janky character models. Grinding through thirty seconds of platforming over and over again may appeal to some, but there comes a point when the time wasted re-running segments and getting zero return is time better spent on other games.