Puzzle games are ten a penny these days, and tend to arrive in all shapes and sizes. We’ve seen some stellar addition to the genre this gen, and well, some less than desirable takes. Where does Neverout fit into that spectrum? It finds a comfortable middle ground to be quite fair; not great, not bad, it’s just there. Neverout doesn’t offer much in the way of a story, you’re simply dumped into the game and left to your own devices. Whilst I would normally scoff at such a thing, in truth, it actually works in the game’s favor in this regard.
Neverout doesn’t want to take home any awards, and it doesn’t want to be anything other than what it is – a short bout of progressively difficult puzzles to keep you entertained for an afternoon. I should point out, however, that the game isn’t without fault. First and foremost, the game’s VR history is far too apparent; often leading to clunky, somewhat unresponsive handling now that’s free from those shackles. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a deal breaker by any means, but several times I found myself reminded of its pre-set roots.
Moving on. Neverout stuffs its players into a network of small claustrophobic cubes, in which you’ll move from one cube to the next as you go about your business, solving whatever tricks the game throws at you. Neverout does well at feeding you into the basics of play via a short collection of tutorial levels; all of which are designed in such a way that you’ll form a grasp as to how everything functions by the time you hit the main event. Once you’re done with the tutorial levels, you’ll find yourselves situated at the game’s (let’s say) hub-cube.
Here, you’ll find five options; replay the tutorial levels, or, select from one of the other four theme-specific cube networks to dive into. The game offers over sixty levels in total, spread across the aforementioned network of cubes. The themes that these are broken down into range teleport, magnetic, box, and electric. Whilst at the hub-cube, you’ll notice that each of these networks generate power to a final area, meaning that you’ll need to complete each cube in each network before full power is restored so that you can go on to access this.
It’s a relatively straightforward setup. The same can be said about the game’s handling. In Neverout, the game plays in first-person perspective. Your character, however, cant move with complete freedom, and must instead move in unity with the grid-like formation that’s present throughout each and every cube. Essentially, you can only move forwards, backwards, left, and right, and indeed, observe your surroundings in full view. There’s little else that you’ll be doing here, simply due to the fact that there’s no interaction needed.
What I mean there is that you’ll solve each puzzle using only movement and perception. There’s no buttons you’ll need to press, no objects you’ll need to move, no platforms to jump to and from, nothing. It’s just you, you’re awareness, and general traversal. Once again, this is a design choice that I wouldn’t normally sold on, but it fits quite well here. You’re able to move across each surface of the cube, with the cube automatically rotating on the spot whenever you move to a wall; each wall then becoming a floor, so to speak.
You’ll always begin at a starting point, and must simply work out how to reach the exit door. Things start out quite simple. In fact, you’ll not find much of a challenge at all during the first half of each network. I found the solutions to each problem almost instantly, making for a puzzler that clearly could have sported a better difficulty curve. Early on, everything is merely a case of walking to a specific point, utilizing a specific mechanic, and then jumping through the exit door to move on. That said, the game does pick up some traction later in.
Sadly, this intrigue only really sets in when you’re practically rubbing shoulders with the endgame, and to point out, Neverout only lasts roughly two hours at best. That, for me at least, is the game’s biggest drawback. The developer would have been better off establishing a harsher difficulty early on across each network, to then gradually introduce new mechanics and more depth. Throwing everything at the player during the easier phases of play doesn’t really add up. Still, there’s some fun and satisfaction to be had nonetheless.
It’s just a shame that it’s quite fleeting. I found myself enjoying the game’s light and initial intricacies, but then feeling quite taxed once I was near the end of each network. With that in mind, some networks are far easier than others. I ran through the box network with ease, and really only struggled during the final few levels of the teleport and magnetic networks. The electric network is the hardest in my opinion, but only because it can be difficult to gain a decent perception. Whatever the case, I’ll say this, for its price, you could go much worse.
Neverout is a steal for its cost, but that doesn’t equate to a good game. It’s a serviceable trek at best. One that gets something wrong for everything it gets right. Though, even if you don’t manage to pull even a shred of fun from the ordeal, the bank will hardly kick you for it. So, with the fundamentals to the side, how exactly does Neverout play? Well, each network tends to produce its own unique and wacky challenge. The game’s slight diversity, along with the game’s rather short length, collectively ensures that repetition is kept at bay too.
I welcomed, despite how easy or fluctuating everything within can be, the differences that each network threw at me. Over in the box network, you’ll often be met with large crates that you’ll need to manipulate around the environment via turning the cube, being mindful that you’ll die if a crate falls on your head. Here, you’ll use basic gravity to get each crate in their desired position, usually allowing you to then jump on up and hop into the exit door. There’s a few mechanics that get introduced based on what network you find yourselves in.
The title of each network being the dead giveaway; magnets in the magnetic network, teleportation pads in the teleport network, and electrical fields in the electric networks. You’ll utilize these functions to make progress in one way or another. Whether you’re using magnets to keep crates in a specific spot, using crates to cover up deadly electrical fields, or, zooming from spot to spot via teleportation. Whilst there’s never really any wow-factor, like I said, it’s a serviceable journey that achieves much of what it set out to accomplish.
In regards to the visual and audio design, Neverout falls short of the mark. The game looks dated and bland across play, which I can extend to the game’s audio design. The overall presentation just doesn’t come across too well. With a bigger purse, some more time in the oven, and more innovation, Neverout could have been something that sat alongside Q.U.B.E., instead, it’s just a puzzler that does little to truly stand out. If you’re just looking for some light fun, this will serve you well. If you’re looking for more, look elsewhere.
Neverout isn’t all that challenging, which, for a puzzle game, doesn’t fare too well. Further to that, the game recycles its few tricks too often and rarely offers much clarity. That being said, the crux of its concept is certainly interesting enough to maintain traction, and its surprisingly low cost makes its drawbacks somewhat easier to bear overall. Bottom line? Neverout is a passable puzzler at best. Nothing more, and nothing less.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.