Thomas Brush and his studio, Atmos Games, grabbed my attention when I played and reviewed Pinstripe for the PS4. The combination of Tim Burton-esque art and a deep, meaningful story really brought the experience to life for me.
Now, with Neversong, Brush has brought back the excellent art style for a larger adventure that incorporates exploration with puzzles, boss fights, secrets, and another tale that doesn’t mind getting dark and exploring some intense themes. Does it manage to capture lightning in a bottle again, or does this game about waking from a coma make you wish you could go back to sleep? Let’s find out!
A Fascinating World Filled With Familiar Gameplay
Neversong wears its style on its sleeve, opening with a macabre storybook cutscene that allows a narrator to set the stage with a simple, but effective opening that harnesses a rhyme scheme to offer both whimsy and horror in equal measure.
The setup involves Peet and Wren who are best friends and also dating. After a mysterious being kidnaps Wren, Peet falls into a coma and wakes up some time later, only to find out that Wren wasn’t the only one who went missing. As it turns out, all the adults have also gone somewhere, leaving the children to fend for themselves.
All of it is tied to Blackfork Asylum, so Peet picks himself up and decides to get to the bottom of the mystery. Neversong’s narrative works very well for a number of reasons, but the main draw here is the art and design, mixed with unique characters and excellent voice acting throughout.
As I’ve said before, Thomas Brush’s style feels like Tim Burton’s mixture of fantasy and horror come to life in video game form. These characters wouldn’t feel out of place next to Jack Skellington, and given my love for that style, I mean that as high praise.
The characters, which range from a bully that has trouble with excess air filling up inside of him, to another who’s utterly obsessed with Parkour, all bring something different to the table. While Neversong does indeed delve into some dark themes and plays with horror throughout, it never loses that sense of wonder and fantasy. It’s a combination that works incredibly well together.
Turning our attention to the gameplay, Neversong sits within a place that’s not quite metroidvania, but not quite linear either. It offers more secrets and branching paths than Brush’s prior title, but the gameplay plays it fairly safe throughout the 4-5 hour adventure.
The combat, for example, remains fairly easy throughout. Enemies have different attack patterns, and bosses stand out as visually striking encounters, but you won’t have your skills tested too much during fights.
Platforming is also prevalent, and while the controls are responsive, I found the swinging mechanics to be more frustrating than fun. Early on in the game you get the ability to grab onto eggs that dangle from the ceiling and swing on them. It all works fine, but more often than not the distance you need to cover is a smidge too wide to get it right on your first, second, or third try in some cases.
As a seasoned platformer gamer, I felt like these swinging sections that put too much of a damper on the pacing. I would have preferred the challenge come from other things like combat instead.
Minor platforming issues aside, the puzzles in Neversong are a standout for me, offering some fun and unique approaches to solving various situations. I knew I was in for something special when an early puzzle allowed me to get revenge on a bully while also bringing out the boss for our big showdown.
All-in-all, Neversong keeps the excellent story and style from Brush’s prior work and manages to expand the experience in terms of gameplay, but it doesn’t quite nail all of the mechanics it offers. I will say, however, that the mechanic that involves collecting music to unlock new abilities is perhaps my favorite part of the game.
Hardcore metroidvania fans won’t find the challenge they’re looking for here, but those who like a little lighter gameplay in favor of a strong story and style will find plenty to like here.
Superb Presentation Takes Center Stage
Neversong’s presentation is excellent across the board. Smooth animation, wonderful art, tight controls, and a serene piano soundtrack all combine to form an artistic treat for the eyes. Thow in sharp writing and solid voice acting, and you have all the ingredients for an engaging world to explore.
The gameplay doesn’t quite hit the same high notes, instead opting to play it safe in a lot of ways, but Neversong offers plenty of reasons to explore its world, even if it won’t challenge you in the way you would expect.
Final Score: 8.0/10
A copy of Neversong was provided to PS4 Experts for review purposes.
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert date - 7/20/2020