When I awoke one recent morning, I began debating what should I do this week’s game post: pull something from the modern Steam library or aim for an old classic? Roger seems to like the older games but I’m not sold on that option as I think so many games have passed beyond the veil, into that forgotten realm, that land of the lost video games. But then, as I was feeding my cat, I realized the song that was playing in my head held the key to a classic I’ve grossly neglected.
In 1996, I picked up a game that caught my eye due to the colorful, lighthearted cover image: The Neverhood. The story of The Neverhood focuses on Klaymen, a clay character that you help through the world using simple point-and-click mechanics to solve puzzles. The game is 2D, in that it just moves in two dimensions; Klaymen goes from left to right and the boards change as he walks. The artworks is particularly nice in that it’s all made from clay. Yes, I mean, this wasn’t a computer animated game but all the sets were fully made of clay. According to the book that comes with the game (yes, I still have it) the game had taken a 7 year arc which was eventually proposed to Stephen Spielberg, who loved the idea of it, claymation and all. And so this classic was born. Klaymen himself was a really cool character, somehow both adorable as he flopped his big feet along from place to place and cool as a lone adventurer making friends along the way. The character never speaks but still manages to convey a lot of feeling. That’s not to say he’s silent; there’s a moment where he encounters a tree with some fruit in it. My sister and I were playing it together at this point and when he ate the fruit, he let out a hearty burp. This caused us to giggle like the youths we were and so the natural thing to do was eat another. His burp went on somewhat longer. So, yes, you guessed it, we had to try for a 3rd time. To this day my sister and I reminisce about that 3rd fruit and the reaction Klaymen has to it. The game is full of moments that make you laugh and that’s infinitely memorable.
One thing that I feel really made this game stand out is that there’s no way to die… barring one thing! There’s a drain with plenty of warning signs around it saying not to go there because you’ll die. OF COURSE I went into it and, yes, I died. That wasn’t that big a deal, barring the fact that I had forgotten to save for a while. A far worse offense… actually, the only real offense in the game… is a long hallway you have to walk down that goes on and on, all for the benefit of picking up a single cartridge that you put into your chest TV. Yes, Klaymen can play videos in his chest. Then I had to walk the hallway all the way back… it took forever! Klaymen had no speed walk ability! If one were interested in the actual lore of the game, that entire walkway is filled with story. I never stopped to read it all, but my guess is, it would be very funny.
Some of the puzzles in the game were supremely easy, like opening a door at the start of the game by pulling a lever to make a hammer hit the door. Some were far more complex, like ringing a doorbell that required you to put water in tubes to match the sound. Every single one was charming. Speaking of charm, the music was amazing and worthy of its own article. I mean, it was classic in ways that nothing quite has lived up to, but you’ll not find any Pandora channel playing this like they do Portal‘s Still Alive. No, this was a mix of wacky, weird, and funny. I am pretty sure my best friend and I could be summed up in two tracks; his a morose floppy thing where the voice seems to be saying “everybody waits” while mine is this quirky, happy, upbeat thing that sounded like a carefree loon just bopping his way about town. The main theme sounds like it’s sung by a madman (external link). (This is the one that was playing in my head the morning that I was feeding the cat!) There was also one about potatoes loving gravy or something to that effect. Needless to say, when I learned the game had a soundtrack, I bought it and still have that CD too.
To the best of my recollection, this was the first game I ever played that had two possible endings. I always try the less appealing one first because I want my last actions in a game to be the one I go out on; the one I take with me. The ending is one that I refuse to spoil; other websites could do that for you if you want. I will say that when I was researching some info on this game (namely the year of the release and the publisher), I saw that Dreamworks Interactive gave this game a subtitle: A Curious Wad of Klay Finds His Soul. Now why I bring that up here is that as far as I’m concerned, the character does have a soul and when you play it, you’ll completely agree. Klaymen has appeal as do all of the quirky character you’ll encounter.
The Neverhood is an incredibly fun game, totally kid friendly and utterly worth the replay. It won’t tax the brain too badly, nor will it eat up too much time. For that matter, it also won’t eat up processor power so you don’t need a special computer to play it. In fact, while looking for a picture or two, I noticed one site that allows you to play it in a webpage. I’d highly recommend heading over to the Neverhood. You’ll never stop thanking me!