Developer: Atmos Games
Release Date: July 16, 2020
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: Serenity Forge
Genre: Puzzle Platformers
I should probably preface this review by saying that I’m not the best equipped to tackle platforming games. This is generally because
I am terrible at them I prefer narrative-driven games, which is why games like Inside and Braid are some of my favorites in the platforming genre. This is what initially drove me to want to play Neversong, a game touting itself as a “psychological adventure” easily catches my interest. See, I’m really not that complex.
Neversong is a psychological adventure developed by indie studios Atmos Games and Serenity Forge. It is also a remake of the Newgrounds title “Coma.” Players are introduced to a young boy named Peet, who sets out to rescue his friend Wren from the mildly terrifying Dr. Smile after she was abducted while they were together. Sadly at the time, Peet was unable to save her and instead fell into a panic attack induced coma. Upon his reawakening, he discovers that all the adults have vanished and it’s up to him to save Wren and figure out what’s going on.
You’ll spend your time exploring Redwind Village and the world around it. The world is inhabited by strange orb monsters who will put up a fight as you make your way through platforming puzzles. The presentation is a wonderfully crafted little world that sucks your right in with fantastic visuals. There’s some immersive and detailed sound design for actions and an excellent soundtrack. The puzzles are relatively simplistic but are carefully arranged so that the game doesn’t tell you to go and “do x action to proceed,” making them rather enjoyable to work out. Each area also has a fun boss fight that requires you to use skills learned through gameplay to take down.
Platforming systems give players the ability to swing from ropes, float with the breeze, and slid down ramps on a skateboard. These funky little gimmicks are mixed with the various puzzles you encounter to keep things interesting. Unfortunately, you don’t get to use the skateboard in a boss fight, which is a missed opportunity. You will, however, be able to bring your slowly enhancing toolkit back to previous areas to hunt down collectibles that allow you to customize the character.
Neversong delivers its story beats with the picture book style of a children’s novel that is told in rhyme. This occurs whenever Peet chances upon the evil doctor who mocks him by dangling Wren just out of reach before vanishing to wherever he shows up next. It’s a decent execution of the narrative and flows nicely with the game’s presentation.
The kids of Redwind village are an enjoyable mixed group who all react differently to the missing adults. Nearly all are fun to interact with, and they’re all fully voiced with some cool acting to boot. They don’t seem to have any obvious relevance to the story, though, and the “missing adults” plot doesn’t go anywhere, which is the main problem I have with this game. The narrative simply doesn’t capitalize on any of its premises.
The story beats with the evil doctor, the strange monsters, Peet’s small firefly-like companion named bird, and the missing adults just really exist with no apparent meaning or objective. Still, things like the piano playing are charming, but even that ends up feeling significantly underutilized.
Neversong actually opens up with a trigger warning that states that “this game contains themes including traumatic death, that some may find emotionally distressing,” and that set me up for a story that was confronting in some capacity. While the opening sections delivered on a compelling experience that had me raring to see what answers would be held in the light of the tunnel, that light was really just a light bulb hanging from the ceiling next to a dead end.
The resolutions that the story presents exist in conflict with previously established plot points and make the story feel meaningless, as opposed to meaningful. When the events that I believe are what the warning occurs, I was left with a sour taste in my mouth and resigned acceptance that these were the reveals the story was going to make. For someone who adores experimental storytelling, this ultimately felt like a cheap way out of writing something more in-depth.
Neversong is an aesthetically pleasing platformer with absolutely killer sound design and overall presentation. The six-hour adventure doesn’t overstay its welcome and is full of clever puzzles and interesting boss encounters. However, if you plan on playing this for the narrative, you’ll discover a decent set up that never pays off.
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