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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Best Platformer 2022: Neon White

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We’ve been obsessed with Neon White’s leaderboards all year. That’s why it’s our pick for the best platformer of 2022. For more awards, check out our GOTY page.

Ted Litchfield, Associate Editor: I remember when “first-person platforming” was a bit of a dirty word, but Neon White is just bliss. There’s very little like its generous collection of extremely replayable levels, with only Ghostrunner and Quake 3’s DeFRaG mod coming to mind for me. It’s a rare game where low-level play still feels masterful, while world-record runs are almost incomprehensible to watch in the way they effortlessly skip over entire sections of Neon White’s dreamy, vaporwave levels. I still have to go back and get all the secret, super-fast red medals, and this is a game that practically demands an expansion pack or level design tools. I could see people coming back to Neon White for a very long time.

The Machine Girl soundtrack is a perfect accompaniment as well, and something I often return to while writing. I don’t care what anyone else says⁠—I loved its dialogue. It very self-consciously imitates the rhythms of a circa-2002 dub of a popular anime, and I don’t care how many times I had to turn down the volume so the other people in the room with me wouldn’t hear the dialogue, it spoke to me. It nails that wonky early 2000s dub vibe, it channels the spirit of Toonamicore.

Jody Macgregor, AU/Weekend Editor: Every ability in Neon White is presented as a card, two-sided and able to be used in two different ways. Pick up a pistol card and you can use it to straight-up shoot a bunch of demons, but you can also burn it to get a double-jump. Or, even better, you can shoot a couple of demons and then, before you run out of bullets and have to discard it, use that double-jump to reach a platform that lets you shortcut half the level. 

Neon White is a never-slow-down vertiginous thrill ride, sure. It’s also, to borrow a quote from Sid Meier, a series of interesting choices. It expects you to constantly make split-second decisions about how to use those abilities at high speed and often high altitude as you hurtle past marble columns and endless flat oceans like you’re speedrunning Windows wallpaper.

Mollie Taylor, News Writer: I don’t normally partake in speedrunning, mostly because I suck butt at it. But Neon White tackles this cool corner of gaming in a super approachable way. I ended up spending most of my time trying to beat Tyler Colp, only to have him immediately triumph over me mere runs later. That inner circle competitiveness kept me whizzing around its gorgeous bitesize maps, constantly seeking a new way to bounce off a giant inflatable ball or tweaking the timing on Neon White’s variety of gun-slash-ability cards. Yes, the dialogue is dripping with anime-ass cringe (despite what Ted will tell you), but just turn that dial down to zero.

Rich Stanton, Senior Editor: Neon White reminded me of Burnout Paradise, which is not what I expected going in. There was even a moment during the PCG team’s GOTY discussion where we floated the idea of giving this “best racing game”, which would probably have ruffled a few feathers but that’s the exact mental space it occupies: an asynchronous parkour racer that’s constantly pulling you back in to its bitesize rat-runs to take down your mates’ times. Parkour with magic and guns, granted. My only tip: never look at the global leaderboards.

Tyler Colp, Associate Editor: Neon White was the perfect game for me this year because it proves that I’m just better at it than my friends (sorry, Mollie). I’m a Genji and Doomfist player in Overwatch, refining first-person movement is my whole thing. Drop me in a singleplayer arena where the only goal is to go fast and I thrive. For me, it really wasn’t about the scores, so much as it was about discovering the most clever paths through a level. Sometimes I’d run into ones I had no interest in practicing, but the possibility that it could be done was impressive. Every time someone broke past my time on the scoreboard, I researched how to do it better and then spent far too long executing it. Neon White gave me a taste of the speedrunner I’ll never become. 

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