With a new generation of consoles on the horizon, more and more visually impressive games being released, and technology advancing at a pace I can barely keep up with, it’s important to remember where we came from. Before they were working on your favorite AAA titles, many developers were creating small flash games that would eventually become classics. Games like Super Meat Boy, Alien Hominid, and Thomas Brush’s atmospheric horror game, Coma. Now Brush, teaming up with publisher Serenity Forge, has released Coma’s spiritual successor, Neversong, a chilling story about friendship and guilt.
Neversong is a 2D hack-n-slash puzzle platformer. After his girlfriend, Wren, is kidnapped by the horrifying Dr. Smiles and he’s knocked into a deep coma, Peet awakens to find a town without any adults and strange monsters roaming the countryside. He must use Wren’s baseball bat, as well as the help of his fairy friend Bird, to bash his way through forests, sewers, and abandoned buildings in order to save her and everyone’s parents. From the peaceful serenity of Red Wind Village to the dark hallways of Blackfork Asylum, Neversong is a charming and terrifying look into the traumatic life and chaotic thoughts of one young boy and his closest friend.
Visually, Neversong is nothing less than a work of art and seems to take inspiration from numerous sources. Much of the soft colored, minimalistic design reminded me of some children’s books, while many of the enemies and other horror elements seemed to be ripped straight out of a piece by John Kenn. The music and sound design is where Neversong shines though. A piano-centric soundtrack sets the perfect mood whether you’re searching through a graveyard or fighting a giant centipede in the sewers, bosses also drop music that unlocks new upgrades and abilities. A lot of work went into the sound design and it shows in the tiny details that make the world feel so much more alive. While exploring the dangerous Spiderian Sewers, for example, you’ll be greeted with the frequent echoing chatter of monsters and the dripping of leaky pipes.
Neversong features a fully voiced cast of charming supporting characters to interact with. Most of these characters exist purely for comic relief, which can often undercut the terrifying atmosphere the game is otherwise trying to cultivate. Before the game even starts, you’re greeted with a message warning players of traumatic themes and visuals, but these sections are somewhat overshadowed by the frequent gags and jokes. Still, the voice acting is excellent and the writing is great as well so this never felt like a major downfall.
Neversong leans heavily into its story and aesthetic, but is quite a mixed bag when it comes to gameplay. Neversong features combat, puzzles, and platforming sections and succeeds to varying degrees with all of them. Combat is fun, and your weapon feels powerful and heavy, but the zoomed out camera and short attack distance makes timing your attacks difficult where occasionally I felt a bit cheated when it seemed that I had landed an attack perfectly, but I still lost a life. On the other hand, health is given out like candy, so things never get too challenging. Even bosses follow predictable and easily avoidable patterns that make them more of a chore to deal with than an actual threat, but various upgrades keep things interesting.
Platforming can be even more frustrating than combat at times, for similar reasons. It can be difficult to time jumps precisely, especially when you’re swinging from ropes. While platforming sections are usually fairly short, minor mistakes than can seem unfair often lead to having to restart the entire section over. I found myself repeating sections over and over just to get back to an area I had already been to. Little tricks like swinging in only one direction or jumping from higher up on the rope can give you a lot more control, but I would have preferred a more intuitive set of moves.
Neversong is an interesting story about friendship, fear, and trauma. What it lacks in tight controls and challenging enemies, it makes up for in its stunning artwork, hypnotic soundtrack, talented cast of voice actors, and engaging story. Fans of games like A Night in the Woods or shows like Over The Garden Wall will appreciate the combination of existential horror and buttloads of humor and charm. While the platforming and combat mechanics aren’t as refined as similar games like Hollow Knight, there’s plenty of variety and various upgrades will keep you engaged throughout the entire game.