Neversong is a 2D puzzle platformer from Atmos games that brilliantly wraps a multilayered mystery in breathtaking storybook artwork.
Our narrative starts off by introducing Peet, our 12 year-old protagonist. Peet is a young boy who falls into a coma in the midst of the kidnapping of his best friend, Wren. While the exact details of Wren’s disappearance are yet to be uncovered, our little hero awakens from his slumber only to find a very odd and strange world that is no longer how he left it. Despite this new oddity, he learns quickly about the disappearance of his best friend and hastily sets out to find her. His village of Red Wind has changed quite drastically. All of the adults have been replaced by vile terrible monsters. To make matters worse, all of the children, some of which, old friends, now seem bratty and greet Peet with smug upsetting discourse. With minimal information about your friend’s last known whereabouts it’s now up to Peet to navigate this grim, yet whimsical world in order to find Wren.
Neversong at its core cleverly blends platforming action and puzzle solving tactics to tell it’s dark entangled story. Leveraging similar platforming mechanics from titles like Hollow Knight and Child of Light, you must traverse levels, gather clues and solve puzzles in order to gain more information surrounding Wren’s mysterious disappearance and ultimately advance the story line. Thankfully, the game’s platforming mechanics are rather basic and easy to grasp. Peet can perform basic transversal skills: running, jumping, climbing and even skateboarding! Additional quality of life abilities can be unlocked by earning ‘songs’ upon successfully completing each level. Apart from transversal, he also has the ability to yield a baseball bat that can be used to wail on enemy monsters that are encountered along the way. The bat can also be used to knock down various obstacles in order to clear the path forward. While the platforming aspect of Neversong is mediocre at best, it’s the puzzle solving component that really brings this indie game to life.
Puzzle sequences are brilliantly crafted and offer a ton of satisfaction for solving. Solutioning puzzles in general involve a routine mix of transversal searching and collecting clues from other characters within the level or within the environment (found in plain sight). This is not a shortcoming for the game at all. Experimenting and interacting with elements of the puzzle can come off rather amusing and quirky. The elements of the puzzle (artifacts) are absurdly unique, yet well thought out at the same time! They memorably interconnect with each other as you work your way through the solution. That is, while these clues tend to baffle you when discovered on their own, once combined with other clues, the whimsical motif of the game really begins to surface as the puzzle comes together. This makes the whole puzzle solving experience feel authentic and genuine as you connect all of the dots. Needless to say, early puzzles are basically straight forward in nature, but they do begin to grow in complexity and difficulty as you reach later levels. Regardless, the solving technique remains constant the whole way through the game. That is, explore the puzzle, find clues, experiment with said clues and finally solve it. While this may feel like the game is stalling or holding back, there is an immensely gratifying feeling that emerges once puzzles are solved and more of the story line is revealed.
Aside from solving puzzles, our hero Peet will periodically have to butt heads with a variety of baddies along his eerie journey. Most enemies engage with ranged attacks for which Peet has zero defence against. Other than the ability to basically move out of the way, Peet’s trusty baseball melee attack is often no match for these type enemies. Your best bet is to attack enemies before they detect your presence, rather than deal with moving projectiles. For the most part, dealing with enemies encountered during the early stages of the game soon begin to feel like somewhat of a nuisance. While encounters do become harder towards the end of the game, Peet’s attacks and abilities stay the same. Therefore, general combat depends solely on your skill and tact.
Unlike regular enemy battles, boss battles are very well designed and thrilling to play through. They make up for the bland encounters that take place during regular gameplay. Furthermore, boss fights also feed into the game’s story line in a rather impactful way. This makes them worth the additional challenge. It must be mentioned however, that all boss battles are patterned. Drawing on muscle memory built up from investing many hours into Mega Man boss bottles, with enough memorization and trial and error you can thwart these big bad baddies in no time. Granted, these end of stage leaders are much more complex than fighting regular foes, and while they do to require more effort to win, I personally wouldn’t have minded if boss battles were the only encounters in the game.
On the whole, Neversong’s eerie aesthetic stands apart from most puzzle platformers. The game juxtaposes stark contrasting moods and frames these constructs in a unique story book style narrative that quickly intrigues the mind. The graphics look just as good on a glossy story book as they do in motion on your screen! Dark toned, vibrant illustrations are authentic and animations are delightfully strange. Reminiscent of Burton-esc lore, backgrounds, set pieces, characters and enemies all exhibit off-kilter looks and movements that truly place this game in a captivating genre of its own. This grimm, yet whimsical parallax is accompanied by an equally unsettling slow melodic piano ballad soundscape that cultivates a very offsetting mood. This also enforces the feeling of a post-coma confusion as you wander from environment to environment. Stark differences between levels very much reinforce that you are leaving the safety of your home into a darker and stranger world.
The world becomes super engaging as more of it is established. With memorably bazaar characters and a constantly changing immersive story arc, Neversong offers a gaming experience that must be experienced seamlessly from beginning to end. Offering slightly more than five hours of charming gameplay spread across six brief levels, the story does not lend itself to playing in short bursts. The title is not an overly difficult game, and will cater to the more casual gamer looking for an immersive story and memorable characters. It is an even split between engaging puzzles and platforming gameplay that users will enjoy exploring as they unravel the bleak yet strangely charming world of Neversong.