—a stroke of surreal—
In an age where we have become bombarded with first person shooters, MMORPGs and FIFA spinoffs, DreamWorks Interactive’s (Now Electronic Arts Los Angeles) The Neverhood is a refreshing change of pace, as well as one of the weirdest, goofiest journeys you’ll experience.
But before I go on to describe it in painstaking detail, I must ask you something. Did you grow up in the nineties? If so, chances are you’ve played-or at least seen this game before. It was originally part of a Windows sampler CD, and it’s just one of the loveliest and most bizarre point and click games of its day.
You’re one of the ‘Klaymen’, curious little critters that are of course moulded out of clay, and it’s your job to explore the mysterious island you’ve suddenly found yourself upon. No, how you ended up locked inside a room in which you have to hammer down the door to get out of is not explained-and that’s the beauty of this game-its vagueness, which is made even better by the fact that the characters don’t speak. The main form of sound is a slightly jazz based accompanying soundtrack, and a few random noises here and there.
One thing that is very gratifying about this game apart from it’s unique atmosphere, are the puzzles. Although they might seem pretty pointless at first, there is usually always a hidden objective. Take the fly-trap/gymnast ring room for instance. If you jump straight down into the plant, the game launches into a hilarious animated sequence in which the ‘fly trap’ will eat you, and then spit you back out. Your only clue to figure out the plant puzzle (apart from guessing) is to follow the instructions written on this mysterious note:
Indeed, I’d like to know who this Willie is too.
Progressing through the game means more oddball puzzling goodness. One of my favourites was the one above, which featured a block type figure on the left, and building blocks on the right. At first, I applied the logic of the card game Snap in order to solve this puzzle. After all, there were two blocks that flashed each time you clicked on one block. However, I soon realised that the aim of the puzzle was to connect the joints on the figure on the left. Pretty soon another seemingly pointless puzzle had been solved. And care I did not, since I had so much fun doing it.
One of the first things you might notice about this game is how how differently it’s constructed from many other games. All the backgrounds and characters have been composed from real clay, which have been animated with exceptional attention to detail.
Moving around Klaymen can be a little slow at times, but that doesn’t mean that the controls are difficult. The arrow intuitively makes sense, since humans usually point to the object they are referring to/wish to interact with in real life situations as well. I must admit that before I had played a few point and click games, I had my doubts about how enjoyable they’d be. But I can guarantee that The Neverhood is the sort of game that never fails to intrigue your curiosity, so there is never a dull moment.
The Neverhood is a very much welcomed reminder of how games used to be in the past-simple graphics, simple gameplay, and simple storyline. The thing that made it all work in my opinion, was the game creators’ unbridled sense of adventure and creativity. This is not to say that game creators of today don’t make fun and exciting games, but with the continued advances in technology and a push to move towards more realistic game art, and cooler special effects, something has to be sacrificed in the process.
So when you’re feeling like a breather from the fast paced action of the latest Call of Duty installment, or you’re just craving a change from what you usually play, give The Neverhood a whirl. You won’t regret it.
Fortunately for us, some kind people uploaded The Neverhood online-note that you may need to change your Java settings to play it.
Play The Neverhood here.