What is Neversong?
Neversong is a psychological adventure game with side-scrolling platformer-style mechanics that is based on the popular flash game Coma. You play as Peet, a young boy whose girlfriend has been kidnapped. The shock of witnessing this has sent Peet into a coma but upon awakening, he discovers that all the adults are missing from his town which is now infested with monsters.
Neversong has been rated ESRB 10+ and PEGI 7. For once, I consider these ratings to be too low as the game has some truly horrifying monsters and upsetting sequences as well that I know would have freaked out my ten-year-old. Personally, I would consider this suitable for 12+ at the very lowest.
Neversong is available on:
Neversong System Specifications
Steam lists the following minimum requirements to play Neversong:
- OS: Windows 7 or higher
- Processor: 1.7 GHz Dual Core CPU
- Memory: 2 GB RAM
- Graphics: Intel HD Graphics
- Storage: 1 GB available space
Neversong opens with a storybook style intro that reminded me very much of The 7th Guest. This introduction serves to give us some much-needed background so that we can drop straight into the game and get started. Peet witnessed his girlfriend Wren being kidnapped by a sinister being we’ll come to know as Dr. Smile. The sheer terror of this caused Peet to fall into a coma.
Peet awakens inside Wren’s house where we can immediately begin to explore. Neversong offers almost no explanations of where you are supposed to go or what to do, it’s all down to you to figure it out, right from the beginning. As Peet travels around he will meet other children who live in Redwind Village and chat with them. Often, these conversations will include clues that will become relevant later on, so be sure to pay attention to them, and they will also help Peet fill in the gaps in his memory from the coma so talking to others will help you better understand the overall story. Initially, Peet will be limited in where he can go by various barriers that he cannot yet pass. Solving puzzles and defeating boss monsters unlock extra equipment that Peet can use to get around and explore further. Also scattered around throughout the game are fireplaces that can be used to save your game. Should you die (and you almost certainly will. Repeatedly.) You will respawn at your most recent fireplace, so save regularly to avoid frustrations.
Right at the start of the game, you will find Bird. Bird is a small glowing companion who looks like a Golden Snitch and will follow you around for the rest of the game, much like Sparx in the Spyro games. At times, Bird will speak up offering their advice and opinions, and later on, they will help Peet solve puzzles by carrying objects for him. Considering the darkness of Neversong, both literally and metaphorically, having Bird along as your bright, glowing friend offers a much-needed morale boost at times.
One of the first places you will naturally come to is the barbershop, where you’ll discover your first song. Music is a key element of Neversong (‘song’ is part of the title after all) and it is through music that you will unlock new items. When Peet learns a song, it will be added to his songbook. After traveling back to Wren’s home, Peet will then be able to play that tune on the piano that is located where he first woke up at the very start of the game, and playing the tune will reveal the hidden equipment. The first item you will unlock is a baseball bat that can be used as a basic weapon to fend off the many monsters that have taken over the town and surrounding countryside. Later you will earn special gloves to help you swing around on the strange orange balls that dangle from trees and lampposts, an umbrella for gliding, and even a skateboard to help you get around faster.
Speaking of monsters, Redwind is infested with them and you will need to fight off many as you play your way through Neversong. Many of them, like the little orange spider-like creatures that skitter about on the ground, are easy enough to kill with a solid whack from your baseball bat. As you progress, harder and harder monsters will begin to appear, occasionally trapping Peet in one spot until he defeats them all. You’ll begin with four lives – indicated by heart symbols in the top left-hand corner of your screen – but can earn more by collecting 100 Stars from defeated monsters. By the end of the game, I had around eight or nine lives which were hugely beneficial when it came to defeating boss monsters.
There are several boss monsters to defeat in Neversong, each one progressively more difficult than the last, and culminating in your inevitable face-off against Dr. Smile. These boss monsters are, honestly quite terrifying, especially when you realize the truth about what it is you’re really fighting, but defeating them is relatively easy and reminded me of the old-fashioned classic games of my youth. Find the right rhythm and you’ll be off. Actually getting to those bosses is slightly more challenging and often requires plenty of effort and lateral thinking. Paying attention to everything you see and read around you will really benefit you when it comes to these puzzles, especially as Neversong offers almost no instructions or guidance. I had to resort to checking a walk through a couple of times by the end just to be sure I was on the right track.
One more minor element of Neversong are Coma Cards. These are special collectibles dotted throughout Redwind and the surrounding areas. Finding one adds it to your collection and allows you to equip an entirely cosmetic item like a hat or a rainbow trail behind Bird. I did find it disappointing that I could only use one of these extras at a time. Sure equipping two hats at once is somewhat pointless, but it was frustrating that I couldn’t have both a hat and my favorite rainbow trail behind Bird at the same time.
Neversong sucks you in right from the beginning with its twisted fairytale storybook opening sequence. I was immediately curious to know what was really going on as there was clearly more to the story than a kid who has simply awakened from a coma. Where are all the adults? Where have the monsters come from? Why was Wren taken and how do I get her back?
I completed the game unjust over five hours, slower than many estimates I’ve seen but I’ll admit that I found some of the skills tricky to master (I cannot tell you how many times I fell off while attempting to jump between the suspended orange balls) because the play-style here was different to the usual style of games I play. This felt like the perfect length to me, long enough to allow the story to unfold at a slow but constant pace, but short enough to avoid getting repetitive as there are only so many times you can defeat the same types of monsters before getting bored.
One of my favorite elements of the game was the music. The game’s soundtrack is beautiful (I’m listening to it as I write this) and mixes childhood innocence with haunting sadness. Layed over the music are sound effects that added to the creepy tone of the game, especially when playing alone at night. Clocks ticked, bells rang, monsters raged, and sometimes laughter would be heard echoing in the distance giving the overall soundscape a truly sinister character. The addition of the music pieces you uncover throughout the game is also well thought out. The first piece you come across is achingly beautiful and tragically sad in just those five notes, sadly none of the other pieces quite lived up to it.
My biggest complaint about Neversong was the lack of guidance. As Peet’s world expands, it’s not always clear where to go next which means you can easily end up retracing your steps as you try to figure out what you’re supposed to be doing. With no hints or help available, if you get stuck you’ll either have to hope you figure it out eventually, or turn to a walkthrough guide. The ending is also rather vague. I actually liked the ambiguity it presents in many ways, but I did find myself heading to Reddit to read other people’s interpretations and try to make sense of it all. If you like your games to end with an obvious good-defeats-bad conclusion, then Neversong may well frustrate you.
Neversong is a visually beautiful, superbly scored game that is the perfect length to play either alone or with a partner over the course of a couple of evenings. The story will encourage you to stop and think about issues like mental health, depression, and the nature of reality – heavy themes for a video game but ones handled deftly here. It is not a game I’d recommend playing with younger kids but it would be ideal to play with a teen in order to open up discussions about some difficult subjects and it is, underneath all those deep and thought-provoking layers, a lot of fun to play as well.
GeekMom received a copy of this item for review purposes.