Neversong – In Need of Tuning
Games with an emotional core are as important as those with in depth gameplay. What you can take out of a game can be more than just “that was a blast;” it can also be “that story really stuck with me.” We find connections within these emotional cores and become attached to them, as it can feel like they understand us. Games like Hellblade reach out to a group of people and tell them it’s alright. Neversong is a game just like this, except it wants to encompass something wider.
Neversong is a 2D adventure game developed by Atmos Games and published by Serenity Forge, seeking to tell a story with themes of loss and grief.
Ripped From A Storybook
In the story of Neversong, you play as a boy named Peet, who found friendship with a girl named Wren. These two did everything together, like play songs and explore their town of Redwind. However, upon extending their search for adventure beyond the town’s limits, they stumbled upon an asylum. Suddenly, Wren was kidnapped, and Peet was so afraid that he fell into a coma. Waking up, he finds all the adults in town have gone off to search for Wren, but they haven’t returned. So, Peet takes it upon himself to find the adults and save his girlfriend.
Neversong’s writing can be described as decent. It’s nothing special, even if it does break the norms of what would be considered the diction of a 1950s or 1960s kid.
But you also have a talking bird as a friend, so I guess it can be forgiven.
What is to be praised is the narration. Whoever is voicing the narrator does a fantastic job making things sound like it’s just some story from a book, complete with rhymes, even if it did reach pretty far at one point (“lullabile” is not a word). And when things get creepy, the narrator makes sure to bring the right voice to the job.
Something Isn’t Right
This game is more than just some casual adventure game where you fight monsters and save the girl. Neversong can be labelled as a horror game. Within the first minute of gameplay you find yourself underneath the painting of a terrifying figure. As you go throughout the game, the tone, while turning jovial after the creepy beginning, has this odd hint of something not being right.
The music does well to communicate this. When in the beginning, there’s this sinister feeling in the air, complimented well by the track that accompanies it. Then, once you get outside, this cheery beat starts to pick up, but the artstyle of this game, which is simplistic yet well shaded, contrasts slightly with it. It creates this air of uneasiness. An uneasiness that permeates throughout Neversong.
Neversong’s structure is near that to a metroidvania, if only simpler. You explore this world, fight enemies, talk to people, complete puzzles, and eventually gain upgrades that will allow you to access other parts of the world.
Bashing And Smashing
Combat in Neversong is pretty simple. You whack the enemy enough, they’ll die, and will drop these things called Heart Fizzles. Once you collect 100 Heart Fizzles, you gain a heart. Enemy variety isn’t much to talk about, as for most of the game it’s a rather basic design, with one new enemy type.
Puzzles aren’t much to shake a stick at either. It’s pretty obvious this game wasn’t meant to be too hard. For example, the most challenging puzzle for me was rolling a fat boy through sand, sludge, and spider eggs (don’t ask).
This simplicity carries over to the bosses. I didn’t have too much of a problem with any of the bosses, and sometimes their tougher phases wouldn’t even activate as I beat them too fast. Once you beat them, you get a song that can be played at the piano in Wren’s house. Once a song is played, a compartment in the room opens and you’ll receive an upgrade. Then you move on.
As you get further into Neversong, the story becomes more and more predictable. The ideas and creativity behind it are there; you can see it. But it just doesn’t have that emotion necessary to back the punch it gives at the very end. This is due to the whimsical nature of the gameplay. While it might represent how it feels like as a kid, it doesn’t do much for me as an adult, especially when I barely know Wren or any of these characters.
I’m not here to say Neversong isn’t emotional; it’s just that it didn’t hit that hard for me, and I’ve gone through the loss of someone extremely important to me. This game is targeted for me, and it doesn’t produce much more than a couple of plucked heartstrings. Outside of that, Neversong’s gameplay is kinda dull. The puzzles don’t reach for much creativity beyond using fast elevators to thrust you high into the sky. And the combat isn’t all that special, nor that deep to really even be called combat.
The best I can say about Neversong is the music that it has and its art style, both of which carry the tone the game is looking for. All of this, coalescing into a nearly three hour game, reminds me of the empty feeling I had after beating Inside.
Not Quite There
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Reviewed by Freelance7 for PC. Game provided by Serenity Forge.