Neversong is a spooky little side-scrolling game that tries to blend so many elements together, but ultimately doesn’t succeed at most of them. The spooky action, adventure and puzzle game has an interesting enough stylistic and plot hook to grab your attention, but many of the gameplay decisions are just dull.
In Neversong, you play as Peet, a young boy who you might traditionally call something of a coward. Peet is juxtaposed by his best friend Wren, a young girl with no fear. The two were inseparable best buds who one day found themselves in an abandoned asylum, where Wren was kidnapped by a horrifying monster, and Peet was put into a coma from what I can only assume is fear. That part wasn’t super clear, but the main thrust of the story seems to be rescuing Wren.
You wake up in your hometown, a place that is suspiciously devoid of any adults and only inhabited by what can only be described as the shittiest children on the planet. Seriously, these kids are horrible, often times reveling in the fact that your best friend is missing and probably dead, or just calling you weak and a coward. I genuinely hated every character in the game that wasn’t Wren. If that was the desired effect, then mission accomplished.
Neversong excels in its tone and presentation, from its usage of music to its art style, everything is cohesive and vaguely terrifying. Then you actually start playing the game, and you’re immediately confronted with the shallowness of the mechanics. Now, to preface, I don’t think that Neversong is a bad game, I’m actually having a pretty alright time with it so far. I just think that of everything I’ve seen so far, the parts where you need to either fight things or be accurate in your platforming are severely under-cooked.
Early on, Peet becomes armed with a baseball bat which does exactly what you think it does. You walk around the world and whack things with it until they explode into XP or health drops. The XP system is pretty simple, offering you an extra pip of max health in return for collecting 100 XP shards. It adds a welcome, albeit shallow form of progression that the game is ultimately better for.
Combat however just sucks. It’s boring and lifeless, ultimately feeling more like an afterthought than anything. Now, that might change as I progress further in the game, but after defeating two bosses by doing nothing more than mashing the X button at them, I feel less confident about that change actually happening.
Enemies up until now haven’t actually been a challenge, instead feeling more like obstacles that impede you as you move from area to area. The same thing goes for bosses, who up till now haven’t been difficult at all, but they take forever to defeat because you need to go through that whole song and dance of hitting them then waiting for them to attack, and repeating that process 5 more times until they actually die.
But after you finally defeat one of these time-consuming bosses, you unlock the notes for a song of theirs. I’m not sure why you get a song from them, but you do. So you head back from where you fought the boss, wading through the now respawned enemies and excessive amounts of loading screens, and head back to the town and into Wren’s house where a piano is. At the piano, you play the song you just learned which unlocks a new tool or ability for you to use. The first is the baseball bat and the second is the ability to latch onto these hanging orbs that you can swing from. It’s a neat little bit of progression that feels laborious at times because you have to trudge your way back to the town, arguably because some story stuff will happen to you while in transit. I get why they make you run back home after each level, but it’s still annoying.
For all the bellyaching that I’ve done at the expense of Neversong, to its credit, it hasn’t made me do the same thing twice. The puzzles are all unique to the areas I’ve seen, they keep layering in new kinds of enemies for you to fight, and the only place I’ve had to revisit has been the main town. Like I said, I’m not saying anything that Neversong is doing is bad, just some of it feels half-baked.
For what it’s worth, I think Neversong is a pretty good package that has its fair share of ups and downs just like any other game. There is a part of me that’s thankful for the bare-bones combat being included, and another part of me that thinks that Neversong would have been a better game if it was just a puzzle focused experience. I’m less conflicted about Neversong, and more just underwhelmed by it. Although, even saying “underwhelmed” is too strong of an emotion for how I feel about the game. Neversong is a game that I genuinely don’t have strong feelings about, whether they’re positive or negative.