In today’s gaming landscape, we are undoubtedly blessed with a bevvy of fantastic indie platformers. From the original indie hits in Braid and Super Meat Boy to recent classics like Celeste and Cuphead, there are so many great games to play. Some prefer to tell an engaging story above all else, others opt to have their gameplay do the talking, while some of the greatest succeed in combining both into a quality product. Neversong takes the latter approach, pairing a Burton-esque aesthetic and psychological horror narrative with 2D action-adventure platformer gameplay. Is it worthy of your time among the sheer amount of great offerings of the same vein, or is it a boring and forgettable journey? Read on for our Neversong review.
Adults Are Monsters
Neversong quickly introduces you to the protagonist Peet in a short storybook style cutscene. Peet is a young orphan boy who struggles being alone, until he finds Wren, a girl he quickly befriends and falls in love with. One day while adventuring together, Peet and Wren find themselves at an abandoned asylum. Things quickly go awry as Wren is captured by a horrific being, and quickly whisked away into the darkness. Having witnessed the only thing he cherishes in life being taken from him, Peet is immediately overcome by fear, falling into a coma.
Once awaking in Redwind Village, it quickly becomes apparent that things have changed since Peet fell into his coma. The adult residents of the village have gone to track down Wren, leaving the kids alone to fend for themselves, and mysterious creatures now inhabit Redwind Village and its surrounding areas. Even the parents of some of the village kids have turned into terrifying monsters. Despite the atrocities that await him, and the blatant failure of the adults to find her making things particularly ominous, Peet sets out to retrieve Wren.
The narrative is simple but succeeds in remaining gripping with numerous surprising twists and turns. The revelation at the finale is an emotional highlight and a worthy reward, but the constant encounters with the antagonist Dr. Smile remain one of the strongest aspects of the narrative. Dr. Smile is an antagonist that feels ever-present throughout the journey, as if he is actively stalking and toying with you. He often also has Wren in her cage alongside him, adding insult to injury as he sadistically dangles the carrot in front of you before scurrying away. He’s also damn unsettling, in his look of course, but more so his chilling voice.
The voice acting overall is excellent, giving each character a bit more characterisation than they would if they were mute. It makes the rebellious kids of Redwind more entertaining to interact with as they exude a snarky childish tone, while making the monsters you encounter all the more unnerving when you hear their creepy voices. I also feel it important to commend the soundtrack, as it does a great job at further immersing you into the world. The songs are also just solid tunes to listen to.
Play Me a Tune, Piano Boy
Much like the narrative, gameplay in Neversong is solid. As Peet, you are tasked to travel through the neighbouring areas of Redwind Village, exploring them and ultimately taking out the chilling bosses that inhabit the area. Killing a boss will grant you access to their song, which you can then play on the piano at Wren’s house to unlock items that are crucial for further progression. This gameplay loop of taking out enemies in dungeons and making use of special songs is akin to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, one of my favourite games of all time. The comparisons don’t stop there either, with Peet’s bird companion serving similarly to Navi, conversing and giving advice throughout the playthrough. Even in combat when Peet makes use of his baseball bat weapon, his shrieks and moans resemble that of Young Link.
The hack and slash combat is simple and does feel a bit awkward in combat scenarios with lesser-like minions, but boss battles do provide the most enjoyable and thrilling experiences. Figuring out the bosses pattern and mindlessly whacking them feels particularly satisfying, and it’s a shame that the rest of the combat encounters don’t feel the same. Traversal throughout also feels solid without being amazing. The basic platforming is reliable, but items such as the Skateboard feel a bit rough to use and ultimately only feel relevant in the few puzzle sections that require it.
Puzzles for the most part vary from decent to clever, with some actually taking me by surprise at their creativity. For example, one puzzle tasks you with creating a special serum, with the ingredients listed in a book you find in the level. Once knowing the ingredients, you have to track down a chart that shows what each ingredient looks like, which then allows you to pick them and craft the serum. They each do a serviceable job, serving as fun challenges to complete in between combat sections.
A Welcome Surprise
Despite some aspects of the combat and the control of abilities being frustrating, Neversong is an inherently enjoyable game to play. The roughly three to four hour playthrough is great fun and the new game+ mode offers an additional playthrough that is equally as exciting. It’s story is depressing and dark, buoyed by entertaining voice acted characters and a quality soundtrack, while its gameplay is commendable without being as fluid and addictive as a platformer like Hollow Knight or Celeste. Neversong took me by surprise, and I can’t help but recommend it as a journey worth experiencing.
- Sad and intriguing narrative
- Burton-esque visual aesthetic
- Enjoyable gameplay
- Admirable voice acting
- Combat falters in smaller battles
- Some abilities aren’t fun to control
- Platforming isn’t as fluid as it could be
Neversong review code provided by the publisher. Reviewed on the PS4 Pro. You can read SP1st and MP1st’s review and scoring policy right here. Neversong is now available to purchase on the PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.