The Neverhood

1996 The Neverhood
Designed by Brian Belfield, Eric Ciccone, Mike Dietz, Kenton Leach, Mark Lorenzen, Tim Lorenzen, Edward Schofield, Douglas TenNapel
Reviewed 2000 May 25

Rating -1 Linearity straight
Reasonability deductive Connectivity minimal
Difficulty pedestrian Relevance weak
Interface 3rd paned simple Real-time minor

You, Klayman, wake up in a strange place, filled with buttons and levers and other devices. There are discs scattered about, and when you put them into the disc viewer a story takes shape -- the history of this place, and you. So your first goal is to find more discs, so that you will know what to do. Ultimately, there's a good guy and a bad guy, and you have to save the good and vanquish the bad. But that's not until the very end.

This is really just a puzzle game. The world itself has no internal logic, it's just a pretty collection of conundrums. The characters are very simple, and the story is just fed to you through the discs, not through any direct experience.

It's a cute collection of puzzles, though. There are a few old stand-bys -- a slider, tone matching, and Concentration -- but there are also several original and creative puzzles. Most are easy, but there are a few that can stump you. There are lots of buttons and levers and such, and many "C"lues that you have to explore carefully to find. The challenges all make good sense and have adequate clues, and there's an in-game hint system if you get stuck.

One notable feature of The Neverhood is the Hall of Records. This is a large collection of rooms (about 40) with writing on the walls, seven or so panels per room. The writing tells the stories of various worlds, most of which have nothing to do with you or this world, and most of which are tedious to read. There are no clues in the writings, so you can safely not read them, but the section on Hoborg should be read to fill out the story of the Neverhood. Even if you don't read the writing, you should still explore all the rooms for objects.

The world is made of clay, and so are you. The large, open areas are presented from the first person perspective, as well as close-up operation of various devices. The view inside rooms is third person. All action is done with a one-action, context sensitive mouse click. There are a few objects to pick up, but they are automatically selected when you act, so you don't really see the inventory.

The bold clay colours, the claymation motion, and the bluesy music make the Neverhood a pleasant place to wander about. The challenges are well done, although too easy for a hardened puzzle enthusiast, yet a few might be too difficult for children. It's a short game, probably less than 10 hours. It's a nice little diversion.

Beware! Here are some spoiler-ridden notes on the game. They're only recommended for people who have played the game and want to see some of my rationale for my evaluations.
David Tanguay's Game Reviews
Here's a description of all the gobbledygook in these reviews. It's also a bit of an essay on the nature of adventure games.