By Ronald Gordon
You know those dreams you have when you’re sick? Those really weird, increasingly crazy dreams that make you sorry you fell asleep? What if I told you there was a game that would give you that same feeling, of a dream that begins pleasantly enough, but slowly gets more menacing as time goes on? That would be a thrilling game, now wouldn’t it?
Neversong is a psychological adventure game developed by Atmos Games and published by Serenity Forge. In it you play as a boy named Peet, who has sadly fallen into a coma upon watching his best friend Wren get kidnapped. It’s up to you to help Peet find Wren and get her back…before it’s too late.
The game starts out with Peet waking up in his hometown of Red Wind Village, where something strange has occurred. All of the adults have disappeared after going out to search for Wren, and there’s a bunch of strange creatures roaming the land. The kids are off trying to find the adults, but Peet is only worried about his dear Wren. He’s determined to get her back, even if that means doing…questionable things.
Neversong’s gameplay is fairly simple: Learn the moves, and then proceed to whack the faces of various bosses in order to defeat them. They all have their own attacks and some even summon smaller enemies to pester you, but their weak points are always there. The fights are pretty easy once you get the patterns down, and in my case I managed to beat each one in under five minutes. Each boss grants you a different song to play that unlocks another tool in Peet’s arsenal. The more tools you unlock, the further you can go and the more places you can reach. You have Wren’s Bat, which lets you whack enemies, Special Gloves that let you grapple and swing on vines, a Skateboard that lets you speed up on ramps, and an Umbrella that lets you float.
What makes Neversong a unique experience is the way it tells its story. Peet is unconscious, and the game makes you wonder whether you’re watching his coma dreams or witnessing him going insane. As you continue on in the game, things start to change. Houses and landscapes start falling apart and losing their color. Dialogue that should be voiced isn’t, and some lines that are audible begin to distort. Your actions start to shift, and diverge from what would be considered good. You start hurting people you didn’t expect to, and even taking the lives of people you should be helping. The game makes you question whether Peet feels bad about what he’s doing, and for the people he’s hurt. It makes you wonder if Peet is actually awake and reeling from the trauma of his coma, or if he’s gone too deep into his unstable mind to ever wake up again.
I was left on edge throughout most of the game. It gave me a sense of dread that I couldn’t shake off, but I enjoyed how deeply it delved into the mind of someone traumatized by the loss of someone close. Peet would obviously be in shambles over losing his beloved Wren, and Neversong makes you feel some of the torment he’s going through, which was somehow thrilling.
And not many games can tell a story this dark in the light-hearted style that Neversong employs, which is cartoonish, but starts to feel lurid and graphic later on, driving home the slow burning terror of Peet’s coma. Each character has its own design, and you can collect different cards that allow you to customize Peet with those same traits. You can give him a headband, a freaky mask representing one of the Bosses, or my favorite – just have him run around shirtless. A little touch of comedy never hurt anybody. Music is also a major component of Neversong, since each song you collect helps you access more of the game. Beyond the songs you can play, the overall soundtrack is light and happy in the beginning, before shifting to gloomy and melancholic later on.
Neversong is a great game. But in my opinion, it isn’t JUST a game. It’s an experience, reminiscent of a fever dream. It starts off hopeless, gives you the slightest glimmer of something good, and then takes it away before you can grasp it. Sometimes, that’s how life is. In this case, it works well. So well, that I hope a lot of other people experience it. It’s a trip worth taking.