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Key art for Neon White (2022)
Neon White (2022)

The Jumpys 2022: Ruby’s Top Picks of the Year

Reflex testers and brain benders

Let me get something out of the way before we start: I haven’t played Elden Ring or Horizon Forbidden West. I haven’t even played the original God of War, let alone God of War: Ragnarök. In fact, my gaming time in general has been a bit tighter this year than in previous ones. However, I did get my hands on a few excellent titles, and I look forward to trying more in 2023.

My Game of the Year: Neon White

Neon White is the kind of game I should dislike because it’s all about moving fast and thinking faster – whereas, I’m the kind of person who likes to platform slowly but steadily. However, despite my initial caution, Neon White presents a great package.

Players are cast as White, a recently deceased sinner (aka “Neon”) given the opportunity to win a year-long respite from the fiery pits of Hell by eliminating the demons invading Heaven faster and more efficiently than other dead folks. Gameplay is split into chapters: one half of a chapter involves White assassinating demons and speedrunning through 3D stages using special weapons and abilities, while the other half returns White to a hub world, where he can trade collectables to increase relationships with other Neons and unlock unique dialogue and cutscenes. The game is reminiscent of 2007’s The World Ends With You, combined with splashes of the Persona series and Mirror’s Edge.

The art direction is slick and stylish, the voice acting is excellent, and the writing is snappy — though it might fall a bit too much into the ‘hello fellow kids’ realm for some people. White and the other Neons teeter right on the edge of being emo anime edgelords, and though I found them more endearing in their cringe than irritating, your mileage may vary.

A screenshot of Neon White (2022)
Neon White (2022)

Movement uses a unique card-based system that is relatively easy to learn, but steadily scales up in difficulty to keep things challenging. It’s an addictive mix of frustration and elation – at times I found myself discarding my Switch in near disgust at the difficulty of a level, before picking it up again seconds later for another try. Even once a level is complete there’s still the allure of better rankings pulling you back and daring you to go just a little bit faster, or to be a little more efficient.

One aspect of Neon White that I particularly enjoyed are the relationship side quests – from the sadistically hard stages that Neon Violet throws at you, to the more puzzle-focused challenges from Neon Yellow. I like how these missions switched up the gameplay and let me explore different abilities in new ways, often at my own pace.

Neon White is the kind of game that earns its longevity not through padding or filler, but from the player’s own desire to constantly outperform their previous records. It’s a speedrunner’s dream, but even us regular gamers will find a thrill in mastering its stylish action. Regardless of how you feel about its script, the gameplay here is incredibly tight, original, and addictive.

Honourable Mention: Wordle

If 2016 was the summer of Pokémon Go, 2022 was the summer of Wordle. A basic but catchy word guessing game, Wordle exploded in popularity across the internet in early 2022, with over 2 million daily players in the second weekend of January alone.

If you’ve been living under a rock and somehow haven’t heard of Wordle, the premise is simple. Players need to uncover a 5-letter mystery word by guessing words that include letters they want to confirm or eliminate. Players are only given 6 tries to get the right answer, and at the end their total number of guesses is tallied.

The reasons behind the game’s popularity are just as straightforward as its gameplay – Wordle keeps score of your lifetime word-guessing stats, which allows you to competitively compare your skills against others. An embedded Twitter share function converts your daily score into a nifty emojified tweet to easily brag about (or lament) the day’s attempt to other Wordle fans online. And with just one puzzle on offer every day, the game works perfectly as a quick timewaster when waiting for a bus or on a lunch break, while still leaving players wanting more. Plus, the satisfaction when you correctly guess a tricky word is just plain gratifying.

The original creator of Wordle sold the game to The New York Times at the end of January 2022 — reportedly for a seven-figure sum, so who can blame him? But Wordle is still going strong, with millions of players logging on for their daily fix and a brief mental distraction. There’s even a ton of spin-offs: Worldle, Heardle, Squardle, and more. If you haven’t tried it yet, I’d highly encourage you to give Wordle a go.

What I’m looking forward to playing in 2023: Alan Wake 2 + 4 top picks

Anyone who knows me well (or has the misfortune of following me on social media) knows I won’t shut up about Alan Wake 2. Sorry, not sorry.

That said, I also recently picked my other 4 top anticipated games for 2023 from those revealed at The Game Awards 2022.

There’s a ton of amazing games on the slate for 2023 — from new games in much-loved and established series, to exciting and unusual indie titles. I can’t wait to see what the year brings us.

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