One of the advantages of digital distribution is that it allows many devs to risk with experimental proposals. Neversong for example, from Atmos Games and Serenity Forge, is one of these titles with a classic platform appearance but much more focused on narrative than on purely playable aspects. It will hardly mark a before and after in the genre, but it certainly amazes.
Neversong tells us the story about Peet, a boy who wakes up from a coma and then discovers that his best friend Wren has disappeared. Something has happened to the adults; they haven’t returned since they went looking for Wren. As the story progresses, we’ll discover secrets about peet’s past in a world that seems to be taken from a twisted children’s tale; arguably inspired by Tim Burton’s films, or at least it’s tones. From the beginning the game highlights it’s intention to cause emotions. Although it doesn’t stand out for a complex story, at least it makes it’s setting more striking than that of many pixelated platforms. What really happened? Is Wren dead just like other kids say?
A Dark Tale of Loss, Grief, and Guilt
The story tells of the return to life after a coma, something that happened to the creator of Neversong.
The funny thing is that the title is based on a real experience of Zhenghua Yang, founder of Serenity Forge. He spent two years recovering in a hospital from an incident that almost killed him. He struggled against loneliness and lost contact with his friends at the University, who continued their lives normally. In the end, Yang found refuge in video games and began to see them as more than just a hobby. The goal is for players to be subtly confronted with dark themes. These themes may be loss of loved ones, guilt, or remembering who you are regardless of the circumstances.
2D Exploration and Puzzles
This title takes several ideas seen in many other titles, although it doesn’t delve much into any of them. I’m talking about a 2D platformer without the demanding jumps, some small puzzles, and a certain dose of metroidvania. Perhaps at first it sounds too ambitious, but in reality Neversong is very light in these sections. The issue of backtracking or turning back is done in small spaces. Let’s take an example from the first minutes of the adventure: we left a house, chatted with some children, discovered a sequence of musical notes and returned to our piano to play the sheet music. This rewards us with a baseball bat, useful to eliminate enemies or make way and go to the underground zone. Later we’ll get a skateboard to dash through ramps and reach new areas.
So these skills are used rather than exploring optional areas or uncovering great secrets to advance in the only possible direction. The combat itself is fairly straightforward: hitting enemies and creatures with a baseball bat as soon as they get close. There are bosses and sections where the combat has more weight, without presenting anything new or remarkable: it works correctly. In the same way, the maps are not overly elaborated so that you get lost along the way; rather on the contrary: a character asks you for help to find a specific object, when you get it you go back because you know that this was what you needed, without big detours.
A Short but Breathtaking Story
A Neversong playthrough lasts a breath and in three or four hours you’ll have finished everything it offers. More than one player will miss more content and locations. The truth is that the narrative of this game is deeper than people would have expected. Of course, the duration changes a bit depending on what we want to do; the map or the puzzles. It’s much more linear than it seems at first glance and doesn’t offer replayability. It’s an experience to enjoy within the first playthrough, nonetheless it’s a story worth to be told.
A Minimalist and Gloomy World
Without a doubt, the visual aspect more than the sound one, which the piano uses is the most striking aspect of this adventure. The characters and game world have a very clear and minimalist aesthetic, almost like Guacamelee!, but with a melancholic color palette, dark interiors and nightmare cartoon creature designs. The animations could be more expressive, but of course their graphics are great and without the need for great technical boasts.
As a mix of platforms and puzzles, Neversong is a very interesting proposal that stands out for it’s attractive setting. But the set is more than the sum of its pieces. It will certainly keep you on your toes until you discover the mystery of it’s plot. If you loved Limbo, Inside and other games of this genre this game is more than enough to get you hooked even if it’s for a few hours.
In short, Neversong is a special game, and not because it contributes a lot to the genre. Because of the environment and narrative part that it has, it tells you a story of grief and guilt. Since it has a very personal experience, with those dark tints that leave you thinking. A way of narrating the feelings and moods of our protagonist quite well and capable of making everything around us much more interesting and intense.
Interesting, particular, and unique. Lovers of the genre and those particular narrative touches will surely enjoy quite a bit. Give it a try, you won’t regret it.
Note: We received a review code from Serenity Forge