Originally released a decade ago as short Flash game Once Upon a Coma, Neversong is Thomas Brush’s chance to re-imagine and flesh out the title that got him into the game development scene. What he and the team at Serentity Games have achieved is a dark, gripping, and thought provoking tale wrapped up in a fun little puzzle platformer, and it’s a title that shouldn’t be missed – though be sure to heed the warning the game lays out up front, especially at the current time.
If you’ve played Pinstripe – his previous, equally excellent, title – you’ll be right at home here. The atmosphere practically pours out of the screen, and there’s more going on here than it may appear. I’ll steer clear of spoilers of course, it’s 3 hour runtime deserves to be experienced fresh, but from the off the creepy poems setting up the tale make it clear that this is going to be a ride. There’s a brief text window upon starting warning players of the theme of content ahead and I must admit, it’s probably for the best. It’s nothing visually gratuitous, rather more psychological and even my usually up-beat mind frame succumbed to this tale a few times. It’s absolutely worth pushing through though, and will be something that’ll stay on my mind for some time to come.
The platforming is just the right side of being too floaty, with our character Peet able to traverse the environments well enough. Items are found at key points in the tale that allow further exploration, though it’s much more a linear experience than these may hint at; while we do back track to areas with new abilities, it’s all in service of progression rather than exploration.
The first item is Wren’s (Peet’s lost girlfriend, and crux of the story) trusty baseball bat, allowing us to fight enemies or break boxes. There’s not a great deal of combat to the game, but each chapter is rounded out by a boss fight that uses the bat as well as the various other skills learnt in clever ways. Brush isn’t afraid of subverting expectations throughout either, though again these are best discovered in play.
After defeating the boss Peet learns a new song that can be played on Wren’s piano at their home to unlock the next item. I had hoped these songs would come into play a little more; as it is, they are used solely for the purpose just described, despite us inputting the learned songs via an interactive mini piano. The pacing at times can feel a little off too, mainly due to some puzzles that require us to trek back and forth over just that too long a distance. One later example has us collecting 4 ingredients, but they are spread out over the level. Our companion Bird can only carry one at a time, leading to me running past items I’ll need shortly a few times before finally having space to pick them up. It’s far from a deal breaker, but it also wasn’t a challenge in anyway, just a grinding of progression.
This is the exception rather than the rule though. For the majority of Neversong I was constantly engaged, in awe of the weird and wonderful sights and tales being shown to me. Brush seems to be a master at crafting darkly engaging narratives that not only get you thinking, but leave an impression long after the credits roll. That warning at the start sets expectation perfectly, and while it may not be for everyone right now, you’d do yourself a disservice if this isn’t added to your library at some point down the line.
This game was reviewed based on Xbox One review code, using an Xbox One console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.