REVIEW: ‘Neversong’ is Challenging, Emotional, and Dark (Switch)

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Neversong

When whimsy balances darkness, the grotesque seems adorable and the fear still builds. That’s the best way to describe the art of Neversong, a cinematic platformer from developer Serenity Forge. A twisted dreamlike tale, the game opens with a warning. It will feature death, but also tells players that if you’re struggling, it will get better. In Neversong, you played as Peet, who upon waking from a coma, realizes that his best friend Wren is nowhere to be found. Your goal is to investigate the screams coming from the heart of Neverwood, the increasingly bizarre behavior of the zombie grownups, and the strange truth about her abduction. Through it all, you encounter troubling realities and must confront Dr. Smile, a terrifyingly illustrated monster who has taken Wren.

To call Neversong “haunting” is an understatement. Each level has unique and melancholy music that mixes with environmental sounds like wind or you know, the distant screams of your town’s inhabitants. The score sets the atmosphere and the game’s art executes it at every turn. In fact, the expectations for the game’s nightmarish tale are set in the introductory level of the game. While not a true tutorial that holds your hand by detailing every mechanic, this opener serves as a way to get into the mode of puzzle-solving and platforming that the game will ask of you. As a player, you progress through the opening title and credits while moving through an abandoned building. In doing so, you investigate objects and have to learn how to progress. While I spent around 20 minutes here before I learned which clues I needed to pay attention to, the writing on the wall or the hanged portrait, the experience in having to teach myself the game immediately pulled me into Neversong. 

But while the opening sequences shows you the skills you’ll utilize throughout the game, it is the basics. Across six moody levels with beautiful illustrations that take you from sewers to a cemetery and the very haunted halls of the Blackfork Asylum players are asked to utilize new items and learn new mechanics. The introduction of new elements at nearly every level helps keep both the platforming and puzzle aspects of the game entertaining. From a nail bat to a skateboard and more, each new item adds a new layer of difficulty to both platforms and puzzles. In order to gain these new items, you must defeat the boss of each level and receive their song. You then take the song back to the starting area, play the notes, and earn the next item you need for the next round of puzzles.

Neversong

Neversong is breathtakingly beautiful and difficult in equal measure. With each level increasing in difficulty, there were a few times I needed to step away from the game and then come back with a fresh look on the puzzles, especially in the last two levels of the game. But, because of the phenomenal piano-centric soundtrack, the high amount of lives that grows as the game progresses, and its beauty, I was never frustrated while playing. Instead, I was immersed in the creative platforming and story and didn’t want to quit playing.

While the entirety of Neversong is strong, its heart is its story that deals with the dueling themes of death of youthfulness. The whimsy and the darkness is front and center from its design to its storytelling method which includes stunning voice-over work. But more importantly, Neversong’s story is focussed on the redemption one can achieve after the loss of that innocence. It’s about discovering who you really are, deep down, even when the world is chastising you for mistakes and your own guilt is clawing at you. Additionally, this deep narrative and its darker themes are handled rather subtly.  But in it all, as Peet, you learn to confront guilt and darkness and emerge feeling loved on the other end.

Overall, Neversong is a challenging cinematic platformer with beauty, whimsy, and elements of horror, that has a touching story to tell. While the game will be frustrating for some, it’s a challenge worth undertaking especially on the Nintendo Switch. While the game was out on PC before, the Switch is the perfect platform for both the game-type and design of the game.

Neversong is out now on PC, Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, and Xbox One.


Neversong
9/10

TL;DR

Neversong is a challenging cinematic platformer with beauty, whimsy, and elements of horror, that has a touching story to tell. While the game will be frustrating for some, it’s a challenge worth undertaking especially on the Nintendo Switch. While the game was out on PC before, the Switch is the perfect platform for both the game-type and design of the game.