The Neverhood

Review by Orb and Jen
April 2002

One of a Kind

Orb: The Neverhood is an anomaly in the history of adventure games for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was one of only two adventure games that have been published by the venerable Dreamworks, and secondly, it was the only adventure game ever done in claymation. If you are wondering just exactly what claymation is, think Gumby and Pokey, or Wallace and Gromit. The whole style and humor of the game is like no other, and it's very obvious that Dreamworks spared no expense in hiring the best people that they could lay their hands on.

In addition, the style of the drawn characters harkens back to an earlier day of animation. The main character in the game, Klaymen, is obviously the bastard son of Koko the Clown, the hugely popular Max Fleischer character of the 20s and 30s, with a little bit of the early Walt Disney stuff thrown in. In other words, Klaymen is retro chic, as far as cartoons go.

Adventure Game as Art?

Jen: The Neverhood is a masterpiece worthy of placement in the Smithsonian. It was released in 1996 and as best as I can recall it was one of the first Windows 95 games released. The designers really thought of everything when they were working on this game. If they had chosen to release it as a movie instead of a game, I have a feeling it would have been a Hollywood blockbuster. As a game, every element intertwines beautifully. The scenery and music and sheer quality act as a perfect backdrop to the integrated puzzles.

You've Gotta Like it Gross ...

Jen: ... because it is, at times. Anybody who knows me knows this kind of stuff is right up my alley. Maybe a case of arrested development? Whatever. There are a few supremely disgusting moments in The Neverhood, such as some sort of icky goo being squirted by a bug that emerges from a sphincter-like orifice. When The Neverhood was originally released, it had an ESRB rating of "M," but there is really nothing in this game that I would not allow my kids to watch.

Something for Everybody

Orb: One thing I think is interesting about the design is the fact that it is played in both third- and first-person, perspective-wise. While it could be classified as a straight third-person title as much of the gameplay involves controlling and moving Klaymen around, there is quite a lot of gameplay from a first-person point of view, which really gives the game an interesting air. These varying perspectives do not conflict with each other, but rather they complement each other so well the transition is hardly noticed.

Puzzling Details

Orb: The puzzles are for the most part very original. There are a couple of old chestnuts, a slider and a music puzzle, but most are very different and are completely in keeping with the whimsical air of the game. One downside to some of the gameplay, however, results from some of the puzzles and game exploration areas having really redundant sections where actions must be performed over and over, and this does get old really fast. But the sheer charm and look of the game really override these rough spots, so they didn't really detract from my enjoyment of the game.

Jen: Even the music puzzle was unique—it involved spitting into cylinders to change their tones. And the slider puzzle, while nothing special, was at least not hard to solve. It was only a three-by-three grid, and there was a big fat clue not far away as to what the final picture looked like. Like you said, most of the puzzles are very original. Even those couple that weren't so original were so well-blended into the overall game that they did not seem at all out of place.

Play it Again, Sam

Jen: The repetition got to me, too, in spots. Mostly that only happened in areas where I wasn't enjoying the music. The music definitely adds a whole lot in terms of atmosphere. It's hard to classify. Can we make up our own category of music and just call it "Weird?" Quirky and interesting throughout, there were never any spots where the loops were so short as to cause the music to get on my nerves. There was, however, one tune that bugged me from the get-go. Remember that one I called "Andy Griffith Hell?" It featured whistling a la the Mayberry RFD theme song. But that's probably just me. I enjoy whistling about as much as I enjoy fingernails on chalkboards.

Orb: Oh, I thought the music was just great! I don't even think there were any parts of it that became redundant to me. Probably my favorite bit of music was the potato song. One of the puzzles features around 10 different music pieces/songs, and that was just about the most entertaining for me. The game is also littered with other bizarre and amusing sound effects that I never tired of either.

Little Goodies Abound

Orb: Another aspect to the game is how much extra stuff was put in it just for the sheer fun of it, things totally unnecessary for the successful completion of the game but really fun to play with. Even letting Klaymen stand for a while without moving him around produces interesting results. He'll scratch his ear, fidget, and even take his head off with a "ta-da!" flourish.

Jen: I know what you mean about the extras and the amusing sound effects. One of my favorite parts (like you couldn't have guessed, but this is for the readers) is the 10-minute belch that Klaymen puts forth, just for the heck of it. I loved all of those little added bonuses that did nothing to further the game but were thrown in just for fun. Comic genius, I tell ya!

The Whole Package

Jen: All in all, The Neverhood is one fine specimen of interactive entertainment. It would have been perfect except for those few repetitive sequences, but as it stands, it's the closest I've ever seen.

Orb: So true. And it also stands its ground and on its own merits as a really fine piece of cartoon and animation work as well. All of these things combined put it head and shoulders above most other adventure games and make it (quite rightly) a classic that collectors lust after. The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: The Neverhood
Publisher: Dreamworks Interactive
Release Date: 1996

Available for: Windows

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System Requirements

Pentium 75 MHz
8 MB RAM (16 recommended)
SVGA monitor
4X CD-ROM drive
8-bit sound card and speakers (16-bit recommended)
10 MB available hard disk space
Windows 95

Where to Find It

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