You know when you start up a game and immediately there’s a warning stating “it contains themes, including traumatic death, that some may find emotionally upsetting.”, that you should probably buckle up and mentally prepare for what’s to come. Neversong (originally known as Once Upon A Coma) is a 2D adventure game with a haunting story about grief and forgiveness. My only issue is that the warning at the beginning hypes up the emotional distress way more then it needed to. It’s definitely a dark and twisted adventure for sure, but maybe I’m just a jaded weirdo who has seen too much. Despite that, Neversong is a game worthy of your time. It’s thought-provoking, emotional, and filled with interesting characters. When you’re finished, you’ll be putting the story together in your head to try and figure out what it all meant just like I was.
Created by Thomas Brush and developed by Erik Coburn & Serenity Forge, Neversong is about a young orphan boy named Peet. Life was miserable for him until he met the cute and adventurous Wren. One day, while exploring an abandoned asylum with her, he falls into a coma when she is attacked and kidnapped by the extremely creepy Mr. Smile. A short time later, Peet wakes up in Red Wind Village. Armed with nothing but our wits, we set out to try and understand what exactly is going on and hopefully rescue our precious Wren in the process. Who is this Mr. Smile? Why have all the parents disappeared or turned into monsters and gone insane? Why does the wall in Wren’s house have “Happy Anniversary” written on it with a big scratch through it? What’s up with that Punky kid dancing all the time? These are the burning questions you’ll be asking yourself.. Neversong only took me a couple of hours to complete, but I was engaged in the story and these characters the entire time.
As you explore Red Wind Village and its surrounding areas, you come across other kids that can’t find their parents. They all seem to like Wren though and they have no problem reminding you about how much of a wimp you are. Each kid you meet has their own personality and the voice acting is great and suits them well. Talking to the kids helps alleviate some of the tension too. If there wasn’t any of the light and humorous dialogue you share with them, Neversong would just overwhelm you with dread. There’s this balancing act between horrifying and whimsical that Neversong performs, and it performs it very well.
On your quest to save Wren, you’ll venture into cemeteries and spider-infested sewers. You’ll wield a bat and beat on eyes with spider legs and adults wielding knives. Each time you kill an enemy, you gain a Heart Fizzle. If you collect 100 of these, you’ll gain an extra heart to increase your life bar. There is some light puzzle solving involved in each area and they’re cleverly done and blend together with the environment seamlessly. My favorite involved pushing Simeon (a kid who has inflated into a big ball) through the Spiderian Sewer. You need to push and roll him into different types of substances like sludge and spider eggs, all the while avoiding puddles of water so it doesn’t wash off him. Once you’ve got him covered in all kinds of disgusting things, you use him to coax his giant centipede mom into waking up. She is just one of the many horrors you’ll encounter and there are four bosses you’ll have to fight, each with their own mechanics. They aren’t overly complicated, but they’re enjoyable nonetheless.
After you defeat each boss, you learn a song that can be played back at Wren’s house on her piano. Playing the song unlocks a hidden room that contains an item you can use like Wren’s Baseball Bat or her skateboard “The Slug“. These items provide new ways to interact with the environment. The bat is your main weapon, but the skateboard gives you that extra speed on ramps to reach previously unattainable areas. There are even items like bombs or rope you can swing on, that are part of the environment, but you can use them to kill enemies or reach secret areas. Each item has a purpose and discovering that purpose gives you a greater sense of reward. There aren’t many areas you’ll travel to, but they’re packed with hidden things to discover.
While the gameplay is entertaining, the presentation and story here are what really stood out to me. Neversong looks and sounds like something that would have come from the mind of Tim Burton. The graphics and animation have a dream like quality to them. The music is uplifting in parts, unsettling in others and each compliments the area you’re exploring. It’s that balancing act I mentioned earlier between horrifying and whimsical that brings Neversong to life. What also brings it to life is the depth that comes from the children and their stories. Even as I’m writing this review now, there are things I’m picking up on that I hadn’t before. There are hidden meanings that sometimes will be pretty obvious, while others, not so much. The representation of the parents as monsters and what they’re doing to their children could be a manifestation of Peet’s relationship with adults. He’s an orphan, so maybe most adults he views as monsters. It’s these little touches throughout that really pulled me in and encourage multiple playthroughs to fully grasp and understand the story. You definitely won’t put everything together your first time and there are collectible cards you can find that change your outfit or provide information on the world and its characters. There’s plenty of replay value here if you’re into exploring and understanding the unpleasant world that Neversong presents to you, and it’s something I would actually encourage you to do.
Although it’s pretty short in length, the story of Neversong is what stuck with me. Just like games that came before such as Limbo, Neversong has great atmosphere, music and the events that happen throughout will keep you engaged, pushing you to discover the truth. It’s packed with interesting characters and deep lore that encourage you to fully grasp and comprehend everything that’s on display here. Neversong is a journey that’s worth taking. – NVJ
Neversong is now available on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch & PC
PS4 review code provided by Evolve PR