The Neverhood Review

The frustrating thing about The Neverhood is that its simple beauty belies its malformation.

The frustrating thing about The Neverhood is that its simple beauty belies its malformation, making it all the more difficult to squash. Never before has a game's window on its own secret world begged so colorfully and texturally for you to stick your hand right into the thick of it and start moving your character around. Were this by some as-yet invented medium actually possible, however, the design would backfire, for the ability to encircle little Klayman's neck and squeeze all of the animated life out of him in the last third of the game would make ever finishing it impossible.

Which is not to say that finishing the game isn't impossible anyway. While exploring The Neverhood's early stages and solving its puzzles - which involve moving or rearranging items, making connections, and mimicking a tune - are a pleasure to work your way through, things take a serious turn for the worse the deeper you go. Clues are so abstract they will lead you to despair. Remembering what you have encountered and how it may be relevant to your current situation or problem becomes a dumbfounding enterprise - in part because once you pick up an item and add it to your inventory, there's no way to see it to reconsider its use - or anything else you are carrying - again. It's not until you click on whatever else one or more of your inventory items goes with that it suddenly reappears and fits itself into the grand scheme of The Neverhood's muddily linked together objects. Trial and error is one thing, but to make, for instance, the assumption that players will spontaneously relate a beam of light and a series of floating crystals to “the colors in the spectrum of visible light that you learned back in high school” is just plain unfair.

Which is a pity, especially when you consider how the game's fungible look and feel will, on the surface, appeal to younger players. The irony saddens the heart, because The Neverhood seems to have everything going for it: A lovingly hand-crafted character dreamed up by Earthworm Jim creator Doug TenNapel, painstakingly modeled sets, and - for once - marvelously animated cut scenes that are a joy to watch, each one building upon the last, as though you're sitting front and center in the screening room of your own private, shoe box-size claymation film festival. Yet despite its lively hero and enchanted story, The Neverhood's sum of parts never quite lives up to its promise.

Published by DreamWorks Interactive, whose founders include former Disney animated film honcho Jerry Katzenberg, Stephen Spielberg, and David Geffen, it is hard not to expect a certain level of widespread accessibility for young and old players alike, along the lines of that perennial mega best-seller, Myst. But as with certain unsatisfactory films such as Casino, whose actors mesmerize us, and whose locations and sets and cinematography transport us to another place and time, the plot ultimately distracts us from ever reaching total absorption. The Neverhood would have benefited from a tighter, more attainable script.

The Good
N/A
The Bad
4.9
Poor
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9 comments
KingofCabal
KingofCabal

The guy who reviewed this game need to be hanged! This is one of the greatest point and click adventures ever created!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Joe Hutsko I hope a bus runs over your mutilated corpse!!!!

HKILLER88888
HKILLER88888

something funny about this : the review date is October 24, 1996 12:00AM but the game release date is Oct 31, 1996!the game was released 7 days after the review!now i don't know maybe Europe release was way sooner but shouldn't you atleast play the game enough to see all its aspects?like it would take you a week or two till you lay down your thoughts on the table?also did you know it's been made in the old style animation since the character have a Sculpture?so his simple moving animation is like a 100 frames each frame has been taken individually!that's a ton of work there!and movie scenes aren't short some time they are like 2 or 3 minutes in this game!you know how many frames would that be?and the animations aren't all drawn by computer they actually made everything in game and took pics from them as the developers footage show in game!

Culvinous
Culvinous

I made that assumption about the colours and the spectrum and ze crystals, and I was 7 years old at the time lol :)

shahdeewasahoe
shahdeewasahoe

4.9 for one of the most artistic, moody and geniune game of all times! and Gamespot gives Machinarium, which is plainly similar to this game, a solid 8. Epic fail!

outlawst
outlawst

4.9(poor) ! for this masterpiece ! !

Dark1x
Dark1x

 @shahdeewasahoe This game was reviewed in 1996.  The site was completely different back then and the adventure genre was becoming rather stale.  I loved it back in the day, but I can see how someone who might have been burned out on the genre finding it rather frustrating.

 

I would love to see a "rebirth" of this game.  It's a shame that the assets used to create the visuals no longer exist as we are left with 640x480 backgrounds and 320x240 video.  This would look absolutely amazing in high resolution.

Rickystickyman
Rickystickyman

 @Dark1x  @shahdeewasahoe Yes but other critics gave it an 8 or higher... I don't think there was a single reviewer who have it less than an 8 other than gamespot.

Culvinous
Culvinous

 @Dark1x Apparently they are making a reboot for mobile devices :) Which would make my favourite game of all time available to me ALL THE TIME! :)

The Neverhood More Info

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  • First Released
    • PC
    • PlayStation
    The frustrating thing about The Neverhood is that its simple beauty belies its malformation.
    9.1
    Average User RatingOut of 764 User Ratings
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    Developed by:
    The Neverhood
    Published by:
    Dreamworks Interactive, River Hill Software
    Genres:
    Adventure
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    All Platforms