A long time ago I played a game called Pinstripe, a beautiful and dark puzzle platformer with a simply outstanding amount of polish and charm to it. Once I’d fallen in love with that game, having completed it multiple times before writing my review, I discovered that the creator, Thomas Brush, had another game under his sleeve, Once Upon a Coma. As time went on, this new game was delayed, improved, and rearranged, until it slowly grew into the game we now know as Neversong.
Just like Pinstripe before it, Neversong was funded by the fans via a Kickstarter campaign – once again hitting its initial goal within the first 24 hours of going live. A few stretch goals were unofficially added via the updates and, from what I can tell, everything which was promised has been delivered – this isn’t a simple HD remake of COMA, an old flash-based browser game from the developer (although that is a DLC in the Steam version), this is almost a sequel, or a re-imagining if you will. It’s nice seeing a crowd-funded campaign get a lot of well-deserved love and seeing the creators live up to the promises and plans they originally presented to potential backers.
So, having now played the game on both the PC and the PS4, does Neversong live up to the self-created hype which I’ve had boiling up inside for the last few years? Let’s find out…
Neversong is a Metroidvania-lite game, a psychological horror filled with moments of grotesque and disgust, and a solid puzzle-platformer with a hint of hack-and-slash thrown in to keep you on your toes. You play as Peet, a young boy who found himself falling into a coma whilst he was out with a female friend he really likes, all thanks to a strange creature which appeared and apparently placed him within an immobile state of shock and terror.
Upon awakening from this haunting nightmare, real life isn’t any better – similar to those coma patients recently who finally awoke to find that the world is in the middle of a massive pandemic! However, in Peet’s world, the catastrophic event he’s awoken into is that all of the adults have gone missing, leaving the children behind to rule the town however they see fit. Unable to accept this as the norm, you set out with your trusty pet bird in order to find out what’s happened to not only the grown-ups but also the girl who was with you just before you fell into your deep sleep.
Embark upon a journey which will pit you against hordes of small minion eye-ball creatures and big, horrifically grotesque bosses, as you travel above and below ground in search of answers and purpose within this creepy and Tim Burton-esque land. Although the overall experience isn’t very long, just like Pinstripe, you’ll have the urge to revisit the game over and over again, searching for the hidden collectables and trying to obtain the absurdly hard trophies. I’m on my fifth playthrough at the moment and I’m still loving every second of it, let’s find out why…
Neversong is, what I would call, a Metroidvania-lite game. You need to venture out and discover songs, ala Ocarina of Time style, then return to the piano within your house so that you can recite them and unlock new accessories so that you can access previously unobtainable areas. For example, the first ‘tool’ you’ll acquire is a baseball bat, which can be used to smash things and crush the enemies to smithereens. Your life hearts also increase quite considerably in numbers as you collect the sparkly residue left over from the demise of your foes. Later on, you’ll gain new abilities which make travelling around faster and you’ll be able to climb and swing on various objects.
There are a decent amount of environmental puzzles which will make you think about how you’re going to approach the task at hand – flicking switches in a certain order to lower posts, using moving objects to pass lasers safely, and even picking the right human organs in order to create a home-made drug. This is mixed in with the satisfying combat as you slap your big, long, wooden bat in the face of anything you see, watching as they become nothing but puss whilst exploding in front of you.
The bosses are probably the most challenging part of the game, especially if you’re trying to get the platinum (which I’ll get to soon). Thankfully, they operate like old-school bosses, they all have their own patterns of movement and attacks, so it’s just a case of learning what they’re going to do and then reacting accordingly. Combat-wise, I really enjoyed these battles as the creativity of the enemy designs are so grotesque and twisted – they look simply magnificent. However, the final boss did give me a little headache due to the incredible amount of screen shake – if that sort of things hurts your head, or brings on things like epilepsy, then maybe get some help as it does get quite intense.
The road to platinum
Pinstripe didn’t have a platinum trophy, yet only 1.1% of people who own the game have got all of the trophies. Why? Thanks to a single trophy which is annoying and also slightly broken (or at least it was when I last played it). This trophy required you to play the entire game without getting hit once – the broken part was that it had to be a brand-new game, not NG+ where you can equip an OP weapon to aid you. Why am I talking about Pinstripe? Well, you guessed it… this trophy is back within Neversong!
That’s right, play the entire game without getting hit once – a feat which is going to be tricky as the game auto-saves all the time. Thankfully, you can complete the game in under an hour – which is rather conveniently another trophy you need to achieve. So, after managing to do this after three attempts, I’ve learnt a number of shortcuts and even how to bypass an entire boss fight and a few of the more complex and time-consuming puzzle segments – which is useful.
On a side note, there’s even a trophy for being a cheater – yet another mechanic/option which helps you out in the speedrun and no-hit runs.
Other than all the other trophies, which are quite straightforward as they just require you to kill the bosses in under five minutes each, there’s a currently unobtainable trophy. There are a bunch of ‘Coma Cards’ to collect, some of which give you access to new hats or wings to place upon Peet as a cosmetic extra. But, there are three cards missing – as in, they’re not in the game. I spent about four hours looking through a load of “All Coma Cards” videos, only to find they actually meant “All Coma Cards, except the three that nobody else can find”. The developer is now aware of this and they will be issuing a patch soon, I’m guessing it was an oversight or something?
The visuals are simply gorgeous within Neversong, despite the unusual and sometimes horrifying character design. Everything looks very dark and twisted like they’ve jumped right out of a Tim Burton animation, only slightly more grotesque and sinister. My only ‘complaint’ with the game would be that the viewpoint is very far away, resulting in Peet being rather small – this meant I couldn’t fully appreciate and enjoy the various cosmetics I unlocked due to him being far away – I can’t imagine how small he’ll be on the Switch (Ori was also very small and left me with a similar opinion).
However, on the flip side, having the game zoomed out this far means that you can see everything which is going on and fully appreciate the sense of scale when you’re facing the big bosses. It’s swings and roundabouts, but I would have maybe liked the ability to zoom in a little, especially when there’s no benefit to having it zoomed out.
Whilst I’m on the subject of good things which I wish were slightly different, cutscenes. Each time you meet up with the antagonist, a graphic novel-type effect appears as the narrator reads out a poem that explains what’s going on and how you’re feeling. However, these are all unskippable – even on your second playthrough via NG+. They don’t take long to play, but they do count when going for the ‘under one-hour’ trophy, so it all adds up and affects your time. For context, my successful short-cut enabled run was 0.9 hours – I literally ‘just’ made it!
Also, loading times between areas seem to add to the speedrun trophy and they are quite long in my opinion.
Now for another positive, the music and voice acting were second to none. I loved the piano-themed music and the various songs you learnt as you beat the bosses to a pulp. Unlike Pinstripe, which had various YouTubers voice the characters (such as PewDiePie), Neversong is fully voiced by professional voice artists this time, delivering a very high quality which nobody can complain about. Also, Dick Terhune, who voiced Mr. Pinstripe, returns as the narrator and antagonist in this game.
As this game was originally Kickstarted, various people have paid to appear within the game. You’ll see portraits of backers throughout the town and even a secret graveyard where a number of people lie peacefully. An additional bonus for completing the game is a mini-movie about how the original flash-based browser game, COMA, became Neversong, complete with rather funny narration from the developer.
This reminds me of The Path of Motus as that game had a 40-minute video hidden in a hut from the developer, he thanked you for playing the game and talked about the inspiration which went into creating it.
Neversong, the video game formally known as Once Upon a Coma, is a gorgeous journey through a twisted and deranged mind of a silently suffering coma patient. Although the puzzles aren’t too cryptic, and the combat is rather straight-forward once you’ve learnt the patterns, I couldn’t help but return to the world Thomas Brush created numerous times – it absorbed me and I didn’t want to leave its strangely grotesque beauty. The story is delivered through incredible voice acting and stunning cutscenes, although I will admit that I was a little confused in regards to the conclusion. But, that just gives me another reason to replay the game and once again become a prisoner to its charm.
As stated above, Neversong is actually a reimagining of COMA, a flash game from over ten years ago. The Steam version of Neversong has an additional £3.99 DLC, a HD remaster/remade edition of the original game as an actual application, rather than being flash-based. This doesn’t appear to be on consoles but it would be great if the developers found the time to also port that over, either as a stand-alone title or DLC.
I know that a number of our readers prefer physical releases over digital. If that’s you, then you’re in luck (kinda). PlayAsia are taking pre-orders for a Japanese double-feature release on both the PS4 and the Nintendo Switch, due to launch in October this year. Although it’s a Japanese cover, it does state these languages are selectable within the game: Japanese, English, French, Italian, German, Spanish-Spain, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Portuguese-Brazilian, Turkish
So, if you want both games on the same disk or cartridge, complete with three B4 posters, three coasters, piano sheet music, and the digital Neversong soundtrack, then check out the pre-order HERE. (Affiliate link, you won’t be charged any extra but our site will earn a small commission)
- - Gorgeous visuals
- - Grotesque and highly-detailed enemies and bosses
- - Beautiful soundtrack with amazing voice acting
- - Simple to pick up and play, yet challenging if going for the platinunm
- - Short but sweet, makes you want more (if you do, and you don't own it, go pick up Pinstripe too)
- - "Complete the game and don't get hit"... Need I say more?
- - Currently has an unobtainable trophy but the developer is now working on resolving this
- - The console versions don't seem to have the 'COMA HD remaster' DLC, or any sign of a digital soundtrack