Wallace and Gromit have left a big mark on the television and movie industries. They really brought claymation to the fore, making it a more acceptable and conventional form of film making. One entertainment area left relatively unpenetrated by claymation is videogames. This game, however, is different. The whole thing is made out of clay. Thirteen years in the making, The Neverhood is one hell of a feat. It didn’t sell very well, but retains a certain cult status. This is truly undeserved for such an amazing videogame.
You are Klaymen, a dopey, mute human like thing made out of “klay.” You have no idea where you are, what you are doing or who you are. You awake soon after your birth, sleeping in a room. What follows is an epic journey through a completely unpopulated landscape. You see almost no one throughout the game, and most you do meet are either gigantic robots with an almost sexual love for teddy bears, or spiders with an affinity for eating dynamite.
The Neverhood was released in the era where all puzzle adventure games would not sell, despite their quality; the most notable example being Grim Fandango. This game is very different, though, from other adventure games like Grim Fandango. It is a mile harder than any of these kinds of games I have ever played. The Neverhood is one hell of a mountain to climb to get to the end, but it is extremely rewarding. Puzzle games don’t get much more difficult than this (and the apparent lack of boobs to keep you interested is disappointing).
You control Klaymen through your mouse. You click to get him to move, to interact with objects and to collect items (which can get pretty annoying). Most of the puzzles require a fair bit of thought, and after the first few, the difficulty is stepped up quite substantially, making the puzzles about as complicated as trying to program a VCR while drunk. There is a heavy reliance on note taking, mostly in the jotting down of randomly generated symbols to operate things later in the game, (such as how many times a symbol appears in a memory game to turn a crane). Some even require trekking across the entire world back to the beginning in order to activate something, if you missed it earlier. This is definitely frustrating at points, certainly for a first run through a game.
The game has almost no plot within itself; however, almost contradictory, the plot of the game far expands the game proper, due to most of what is going on is revealed in lore-esque stories (supplied by disks found in game, which are played on video players scattered around the place) and on a huge wall spanning 20+ screens detailing an almost biblical story about the world of the game. This approach to the storytelling does create a sense of the grandiose, a larger expansive story, but during the game itself it sometimes makes the story have a lack of focus; there isn’t as much driving the game through its events. The search for the disks, sure, does provide a sense of direction, but the focus is often not on this, mostly due to pulling your hair out to try and work out the puzzles.
Your purpose being revealed in disks, whose complete collection is only required at the end of the game (which means that you can get late into the game and have next to no disks collected) can make you wonder what the hell is going on at some points, as you may have missed or neglected them earlier. The first time you see the villain I was confused as to who it was as I had missed the disk that tells you about him. This does wreck the experience if this occurs, but you soon get over it when you get occupied with the next puzzle.
But those are relatively small problems in the grand scheme of things. You don’t really worry while you are playing it. The world is so expansive, and the puzzles are so engaging, that it dwarfs those nigh on insignificant problems in the game’s scope. They are merely specks of black paint on a piece of black paper; only when you shine it through a lamp of critique do you notice them.
People who enjoy a good puzzle game may be somewhat disappointed, though, since this game is out of print, which is a shame for such a great game. The hard work that was put into this may have not been worth it financially, but certainly critically it is an extremely fantastic achievement and worth every bit of plasticine stuck in the grooves of your shoe. They obviously set out to make a great game, and they succeeded. Filled with crazy humour and (although few) quirky characters, this game is worth the 1/3 of your pay cheque which you may have to pay finding this on eBay. Oh and prepare to have to create for yourself a makeshift wig out of toilet paper, ass hair and some ordinary household bleach, for this game will compel you to rip your scalp to shreds. But that is a small price to pay for a truly amazing game.