Review by Orb and
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
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
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 uniqueit 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.
Developer: The Neverhood
Publisher: Dreamworks Interactive
Release Date: 1996
Four Fat Chicks Links
Pentium 75 MHz
8 MB RAM (16 recommended)
1 MB VRAM
4X CD-ROM drive
8-bit sound card and speakers (16-bit recommended)
10 MB available hard disk space
Where to Find It