When we talk about Neverland, we've basically got two options. One, adults are gone and children reign - that'd be your Peter Pan-type story. Or two, adults are still here but we wish they weren't because they are absolutely insane - that'd be The Promised Neverland. Neversong, a new 2D action game based on the 2010 flash game Coma, is handily in camp two, and crazy adults are just the start of its somber but gorgeous descent into the mind of its main character.
Neversong was originally called Once Upon A Coma, but creator Thomas Brush of Atmos Games renamed it to help set it apart from his previous games. Neversong is partly a remake of the original Coma and retains some elements, but it's much more ambitious, from its art to its scope to its surprisingly meaty combat. You play as Peet, a young boy whose girlfriend Wren has been kidnapped by a toothy nightmare on legs that goes by Dr. Smile. It's quickly established that Wren has epilepsy and won't survive long without her meds, putting the pressure on Peet to save her. The trouble is, Peet's also fallen into a coma and his world has gone mad, starting with the disappearance of all adults, to say nothing of the headcrab-like monsters that have moved in.
Peet has a clear goal - save Wren - but there's more pushing him forward. He feels guilty about failing to protect Wren, and that's only amplified by the children who blame him for the disappearance of their parents. Of course, there's also a supernatural air to everything, as the relationship between the real world and Peet's subconscious perception of it continues to blur. There's a bit of a meta-narrative between the player's understanding of Peet's coma and his assessment of the world around him, and this gives Neversong an almost Alice in Wonderland weirdness that made me want to meet more characters and explore more environments just to see how Peet's mind renders them.
Things get weirder as adults return as warped and violent creatures, highlighting the at-best estranged relationships between them and their kids. The story also grows progressively grimmer as you pick through the village and uncover scraps of Peet and Wren's history, hinting at the true nature of Dr. Smile. The ending can't help being a bit of anti-climax given the setup, not to mention the legacy of Coma, but there's plenty here that I'd feel bad spoiling, as it deserves to be experienced first-hand.
I went into Neversong expecting nothing more than a bittersweet story, some wonderful minimalist art, and a soundtrack that's equal parts haunting and lovely. I got all that, and I also found that its puzzles and combat stand on their own as well. There are quite a few boss fights, for one, and they manage to wring a lot out of the game's simple mechanics. Peet has a bat to attack with, magnetic gloves that let him swing from metal balls on chains, a skateboard for covering flat ground quickly, an umbrella that he can use to glide briefly, and I was surprised by how many different challenges Neversong managed to prepare with just those four components. The bat is punchy, platforming is precise, environmental puzzles grow more creative as you progress, and the finale ties everything together in a cool way.
Those are the big-picture elements, and there are also tons of little things that stick out to me. The voice acting for most of the game's young cast is a pitch-perfect mix of cute and creepy. I love Peet's bouncy walk cycle. The many secrets and collectibles littered around the map give Neversong a micro-Metroidvania vibe that rewarded my urge to explore. Some of the rhymey exposition falls flat at points - a bit of Child of Light syndrome, that - and parts of some boss fights are a touch repetitive, but the presentation is so wild that I was never really bothered.
Neversong is a short game - around three hours for 100% completion, in my experience - and that's a point in its favor. I'd happily play more of it, but what's here is air-tight. It's a true delight for the eyes and ears, and regardless of whether you've actually played Coma, Neversong is perfect if you're looking to knock out a snacky but memorable game as a break from your current open-world time vampire.