How Neon White Perfected The Use Of Timers

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Restart until heaven can't keep up

Story Highlights
  • Neon White is a game about killing demons using cards with limited uses that you can find in levels.
  • The game has a bunch of mechanics that help make it the best speed-running game, including instant level refreshes and a global leaderboard.
  • While timers traditionally count down to show urgency, Neon White has an increasing timer that makes you want to get better times.

The timer is often thought to be a developer’s handy tool for when they’re feeling lazy. Just slap this mechanic into any game, and you’ll have an almost put-together game. I’ve always hated time-based challenges, so I wasn’t very keen on trying Neon White. I’ll admit it did take me a while to get into it, but when I did, I couldn’t stop playing.


What Is Neon White?

Neon White
The Titular Character, Neon White

Neon White follows White as he’s taken from Hell as a Sinner and made to participate in a competition with other Neons for a chance at getting to Heaven. The game is absolutely stunning with a distinct art style and includes loads of dark humor.

The game’s story is “quirky,” for lack of a better description. If you like layered lores in your games, perhaps the game might not be for you. Personally, I think it can be quite charming at times.


Why Timers Usually Don’t Work

YouTube video

Neon White is ultimately a speed-running game. Anyone can complete a level, the competition is to complete them fast. Usually, games implement a countdown timer that urges the player to finish fast, penalizing them or killing the player if it reaches 0. The reason people such as Daryl Talks Games think this is lazy is that it sets up a single objective, taking away any reason to replay the level while simultaneously punishing those who cannot go further. Ironically enough, making a level easier to complete makes people more likely to get better times on it.


The Gameplay

YouTube video

The game’s Steam page says, “Neon White is a lightning-fast first-person action game about exterminating demons in Heaven.”

The description certainly isn’t false, but it can be misleading. You might imagine the game to be something like Doom or Ultrakill, but that’s a false assumption. The demons themselves or killing them isn’t the main challenge; the demons don’t exactly fight back, and they can be burst down with a few rounds of any gun.

If that’s all it was, the game would be a good contender for the worst game ever. Verge describes the game as a perfect mix between Persona, Mirror’s Edge, and Quake.


Soul Cards

Soul Cards
Soul Cards

What makes the game work (other than the visuals and the vibes) is the Soul Cards. Instead of finding equipment, each level has a certain amount of Soul Cards for you to use. Each card has two uses: you can use them normally with your left click, using ammo to shoot bullets. Or, what’s the cooler option, is to discard the card to use a separate one-time ability.

The skill to make quick decisions and seamlessly decide between which one to use is what makes you good at Neone White. There’s certainly a learning curve, but it hooks you in even if you’re not immediately a pro at it, which is why the game boasts a Metacritic score of 89.


Masterclass In Level Design

YouTube video

Here’s where the interesting things start. You can get different medals depending on your time. If you achieve a Gold medal, you unlock a hint on how to get the Ace medal. There’s also the Red medal, which you can earn by beating the level at a time set by the developers.

The game always has the timer displayed, and you can tap a single button to refresh the stage. Polygon says that if Neone White had a loading screen on level resets, the game would be unplayable.

At first, it’s almost impossible to gain these medals without the hints. A stage might have you shoot at an enemy at the end of the stage right when you spawn, or a level might make you completely skip a part of the level by chaining double jumps and bombs. When you finally get the hang of things, that’s when the game becomes dangerously addictive. Each level becomes more like a puzzle or a rhythm game being played as a first-person shooter. You’re given the variables, you just have to find ways to fit them better. 


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