Saturday, January 26, 2013

"The Neverhood", 1996.

This one is obviously a must-play, albeit a must-get-around-to-playing-someday, as its release date hit somewhat of a gutter in my gaming life; sometimes you have the free time but you don't have the hardware needed to play the new games, other times you have the hardware but no time. Then of course there are the moments where you have free time and beefy hardware but no money in your games budget. Wait too long for that account to fill and the software becomes commercially unavailable, and then technology advances and the software actually becomes inaccessible completely. I hear that support for this lovely clay-filled game is gradually staggering forward in SCUMMVM... so someday I may again be in a position to experience this unique (well, it spun off a series, but all quite different) and idiosyncratic title! At that time I will have to make time for it, as it doesn't seem like much innovation has since been done in its field of gumbymated game aesthetics. (In a sense, it seems a precursor to Amanita Design's organic textured exploration games, but that may not be a fair comparison.)

You're fighting to protect good and
restore the Rightful king to power.

The bad news is you're the guy on the right.

"Clever, an utterly different vision and experience from all the lookalike games..." - NEWSDAY

The good news is you're a lot smarter than the guy on the left. Good thing, considering you'll have to solve more than 60 puzzles in order to succeed in the twisted, clay-animated world of Neverhood. You'll help Klaymen avoid pitfalls, collect clues, and kick a little clay butt. All to defeat the evil Klogg and bring the Neverhood back to normal. At least, as normal as it ever gets. [www.DreamWorksGames.com]

"Embark on a clay adventure that breaks the mold."

I hear that Doug TenNapel played a key role in this game's unique visual design. I first heard his name as a sound effect in an issue of Scud: The Disposable Assassin (game ads pending, stay tuned!) and of course he made quite a splash inventing Earthworm Jim also (ditto). Of course, he's just one man on a team here (what would one man do with 3.5 tons of clay?) so his singular influence perhaps shouldn't be overstated, but I'm unfamiliar with any of the other big names on its roster.

I'm just thinking out loud here since the ad doesn't actually give me that much to dissect and analyse here: 60 puzzles, eh? That would add up to ... a very brief Sierra adventure game. Though the intent of the phrase is understood, Kicking a little clay butt will never mean anything to me other than kicking a small posterior formed of clay. Klaymen is a better invented name than Klogg. "Neverhood" itself is a brilliant '90s empty signifier, a contemporary (down to the same year!) of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, a suitable legacy for a decade that kicked off in '91 with Nirvana's Nevermind.

I could go on, but... why not just enjoy the brilliant ad art, celebrating its flawed artifice and physicality of fingerprints like Brechtian theatre apparatus? Making this game using 3D software to simulate clay would just be somehow a species of surrender. Certainly you can make it better, but you can't improve on it.