Neversong is another spooky adventure-platformer from the brilliant mind of Thomas Brush, and if you have played Pinstripe (which I reviewed 2 years ago) you already know what to expect. Neversong has a cute art style that you wouldn’t be surprised to see in a children’s storybook, but here it’s all bound together by creepy characters and a twisted narrative – so much so that the first thing you’ll see is a foreboding warning that the game touches upon the themes of grief, depression and mental health. Yikes! That’s what makes Thomas Brush so awesome though; he manages to weave themes of innocence, naivety and normality with a backdrop of human emotion, body horror and sublime metaphors. Pinstripe did it well and Neversong continues that pedigree.
Neversong introduces you to Peet and Wren, a tween couple who love to explore their hometown of Redwind. One day, when sneaking around Blackfork Asylum, a spindly creature with a white face kidnaps Wren. Terrified, Peet falls into a coma. After a traumatic nightmare, Peet wakes up in Wren’s house. All of the adults went looking for Wren at the Asylum but none of them returned, so it is up to Peet and his neighbourhood friends to find their missing parents and save Wren from certain death.
Neversong plays very similarly to any number of games of its genre. Combat is light and the emphasis is on puzzles, characters and story rather than on creating a rewarding fighting experience. Puzzles aren’t particularly difficult but they are packed with humour and a delight to crack. The cast of characters you’ll meet are beaming with personality, and they do a wonderful job at making you feel at ease in such an unsettling world. Boss fights are generally quite easy but again, it’s more of an opportunity to put the spotlight on Peet’s journey rather than an expansion of his combat arsenal. There are subtle clues in the world, such as an umbrella etched into a wall, that indicate paths are inaccessible until a certain tool is obtained, so there’s even a light Metroidvania comparison to be made (although it’s nowhere near as robust as, say, Axiom Verge is). Most of the audio is sound effects. In fact, I had to replay a couple of the dungeon-like environments to double-check I hadn’t ignored the score – turns out, the levels are almost silent except for the sound effects of the world around you. When you’re journeying through the village of Redwind though there is a peaceful harmony that’s a treat for the ears. It would have been nice to have had the option to perch on a bench in Redwind to enjoy the blissful tune for a little while.
A criticism I had with Pinstripe was how short it was and unfortunately, I have the same complaint to make about Neversong. It’s not that the world and characters don’t feel fleshed out because they certainly have been (the witty dialogue and talented voice actors are a testament to that). I just can’t help but feel the basic rhythm is a bit formulaic, and it would have been nice to explore the world for longer. Controlling Peet can be a tad tricky at times too, especially when trying to avoid enemies. Frustratingly, the platforming elements were twitchy at times, with Peet slipping off the edge, or overshooting a landing. Peet felt like a slippery eel, is what I’m saying. I only encountered one bug but as I was able to restart where it had crashed it really wasn’t enough of a flaw to ruin my time with Neversong. The plot twist at the end knocked me off my feet but people smarter than me might see it coming a mile off, so it might not have the same effect for you as it did for me. Personally, I wasn’t fond of the finale as I didn’t think it adequately tied up all the loose ends. It definitely answered most of my underlying suspicions but ironically, it brought up a couple of new questions that I doubt I’ll ever find an answer to. On the plus side, maybe it’s intentionally open to interpretation.
Should you play it? Yes!
Why… Thomas Brush does an amazing job of creating bizarre, heart-warming stories in CreepyPasta-like ways, and so it’s always fun to see the hidden side seep through the cracks as you play.
But… It’s a short experience that will leave you wanting more. It’s a palette-cleanser before your next big campaign.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4.
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