The Neverhood

7Take a step into the surreal.

The Neverhood has that special edge of weird that makes it noticeable in a sea of generic adventure games. For one thing, the visual style isn’t pre-rendered or hand-drawn. Instead the designers present a warped and surreal world, The Neverhood, in full clay animation. Something remotely similar has been done in The Dark Eye, which used grotesque (in a good way) clay puppets to convey a unique brand of weird, and Neverhood follows suit with its own surreal style.

On a superficial level you may call it a puzzle game – clues abound, puzzles are waiting to be solved and odd locations are to be explored. On a deeper look it’s a story about good and evil, greed and patience – about the human condition essentially. Don’t let this scare you. There is nothing heavy handed about this game. It’s simply imbued with heart. On a purely visual level, the animation is absolutely fantastic – from bipedal navigation to cut-scene. Every scene is a treat for the senses. When the cursor is idle for awhile, Klaymen (your alter-ego) does some extremely peculiar things like pulling both his arms back and forth through his torso, or yanking his head off and looking at himself with it.

The gameplay is a perfectly balanced blend of puzzles, with mixed difficulty levels and mostly intuitive solutions, and a few though nuts that require actions in multiple locations. The setting in Neverhood isn’t typical, so the puzzles themselves sometime err on the abstract, but are still interesting by virtue of being so strangely alien.

Included are over 60 puzzles, audio and visual clues, a large variety of fanciful locations, bunches of big clay buttons, telepods, video machines and other odd doohickeys. Should you become stuck, a hint system is available, and is one of the strangest ones ever – just travel to the beginning location and you’ll find a pit containing a roll of toilet tissue and a wastebasket. Rip off a sheet and a subtle hint will be revealed.

13‘Art’ is a word that gets thrown around a lot, but if ever a game can be called such, it’s The Neverhood. The game’s stylish brand of weird crafted together with loving passion, retro clay animation and – not in the least – good gameplay all make it a rare catch. Take an ambitious design team willing to take risks (and each of which is probably a touch bent), add a bevy of ridiculous characters and three tons of clay. Mix well…and you’ll find The Neverhood. If you don’t play another adventure, play this one.

System Requirements: 486 33 MHz, 8 MB RAM, 6 MB HDD, Win95

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