The most beautiful game at SGF is a graceful platformer made even better by your Last Guardian-style companion

(Image credit: Devolver Digital)

The painterly style of Gris drew deserving praise back in 2018, but with its new game, Neva, developer Nomada Studios has outdone itself. A larger and more ambitious platformer than the studio's debut, Neva is also breathtakingly beautiful enough to almost leave its predecessor floundering in its wake.

Neva opens to tragedy, protagonist Alba's massive canine companion brought low by forces of decay that leave her caring for a wolf cub. Alba and the cub, Neva, journey together through a world being gradually ravaged, despite her best attempts to undo the damage wrought upon her environment. Trailers show Neva growing as the game – and the decay – continues, but in my hour-long demo they remained a naive and nervous puppy, easily scared or distracted by the world around them.


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Growing pains

Neva preview

(Image credit: Devolver Digital)

In Neva's defense, however, that's not too difficult. The world is truly beautiful. The influence of Gris' delicate style and soft color palette is clearly felt, but there's more detail to bring life to this world. Branches drape foliage, leaves swirling to the floor. Butterflies loop above Neva's head. Great plains, oozing color, stretch away to beautiful vistas in the background. Even the decay affecting this world, depicted in thorny branches or insectoid creatures that suck the color from the world with their dark, shadowy appearance, can do little to distract from just how good this game looks.

If anything were to serve as a distraction, it's Neva themselves. The puppy has a rebellious streak shaped by the joy they find in the world around them, but a fear of the game's darker elements that it's up to Alba's maternal presentation to overcome. Neva can be uncertain of their ability to clear a jump, or paralyzed by fear thanks to those crawling creatures, and it's up to Alba to dispatch the threat, or encourage her companion to follow in her footsteps. A gentle call often gives Neva the confidence they need to make a jump, and the fact that that button doubles up to let you offer a comforting pet is evidence of the tenderness at the heart of this game.

Neva preview

(Image credit: Devolver Digital)

If anything were to serve as a distraction, it's Neva themselves.

Providing you've cleared their way, Neva is usually quick to respond to Alba's call. There's still a sense, however, of some puppyish defiance. Neva will come, but she'll also scamper off ahead, or get distracted by some aspect of the world. I can't shake the feeling that The Last Guardian has left its mark on this game in some way, with both games' oversized, not-quite-canine companions making the world just that little bit trickier to navigate, in spite of the emotional support they offer.

Sadly, I have little faith that the joy I found in Neva's first chapter is going to continue to manifest through the rest of the game. Nomada says that the decay that Alba is fighting against at the start of the game will continue, suggesting the forces that she and Neva face will grow stronger. And as Neva grows with them, this cheeky puppy will develop into a confident and independent adult, a greater ally in combat, but with a much greater sense of the path that the two should take. For now, however, I'm content to revel in the sheer beauty of this game.

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Ali Jones
News Editor

I'm GamesRadar's news editor, working with the team to deliver breaking news from across the industry. I started my journalistic career while getting my degree in English Literature at the University of Warwick, where I also worked as Games Editor on the student newspaper, The Boar. Since then, I've run the news sections at PCGamesN and Kotaku UK, and also regularly contributed to PC Gamer. As you might be able to tell, PC is my platform of choice, so you can regularly find me playing League of Legends or Steam's latest indie hit.