Neon White stole the show during the February 2021 Nintendo Direct live stream. It looked like a mature, anime-styled game set in Heaven and starring a cast of demon assassins, with tinges of Cowboy Bebop, Bayonetta and Danganronpa. Its debut trailer showed off frenetic first-person gameplay and stylish cinematics, but once the screen faded to black, viewers were left with a handful of questions:
Is this a first-person shooter, or a card-based game?
Is it on rails?
What’s with those animal masks?
Is this a dating sim?
And finally: Wait, Neon White is made by Ben Esposito? The dude who created Donut County, that bastion of wholesome, pastel-slathered gameplay and design?
“This game is just so different than stuff I've made in the past,” Esposito told Engadget. “And there's expectations that people have that you'll just make the same thing over and over again. So, people don't really know what to think or say. I mean, my parents don't know what to think or say. My parents played Donut County and they enjoyed it. They're not going to play this.”
Donut County was Esposito’s first original project after doing design work on two hit indie games, 2012’s The Unfinished Swan and 2017’s What Remains of Edith Finch. Donut County came out in 2018 after six years of development, and garnered praise for its adorable visual world and simple, physics-puzzler mechanics. You play as a literal hole in the ground, gobbling up the cartoon landscape and interacting with cute characters along the way.
Neon White is decidedly different. By Esposito’s own account, he’s pumping it full of weird cult energy and late-1990s, early-2000s adult anime vibes.
“I don't need to make wholesome stuff right now,” Esposito said. “I've explored it. It's not for me at the moment. I'm here to make edgy indulgent things.”
So, let’s indulge. Esposito talked through exactly how Neon White will play, answering those lingering questions from the game’s debut trailer a month ago. First up: