Review by Al Giovetti
Genre: graphic animated (claymation) adventure
Release: November 7, 1996
Developer: The Neverhood
Programmer: Kenton Leach
Music: Terry Taylor
Art: Mark Lorenzen
Producer: Doug TenNapel
Publisher: Dreamworks Interactive
Requirements: Pentium-75 , 8 MB RAM, 6 - 10 MB free hard disk space, SVGA card and monitor, 4X CD-ROM, mouse, sound board, Windows 95
Company line: The Neverhood features dozens of stunning photo-realistic environments created from over three tons of clay, a bevy of hilarious animated characters created with over 50,000 frames of stop-motion animation, more than 60 puzzles, a myriad of trap doors, hidden hallways and secret places, a Dixieland Jazz/Blues musical score, and an engaging storyline filled with quirky humor, suspense, and non-stop action.
History: A company was formed by Spielberg, Geffen, and Katzenberg who know a lot about movies form a computer game company, which they know very little about. The three giants of celluloid study the game medium and immediately hire many of the luminaries in the business along with others who are good at convincing the trio they are luminaries. The games they produce are wonderful in many aspects, but miss the point in others. Is there anything that sound faintly familiar? "Those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat the errors of history."
Claymation is an endearing art that has brought us the California raisins, the dinosaur Christmas, and the Nightmare Before Christmas which are classic class acts. Claymation is cute, endearing, and once its done unique and almost irreplaceable. The art in Neverhood is bar none some of the best claymation around. Many reviewers seem content to put up with the interface problems with the game just to see the wonderfully brilliant and beautiful claymation.
Plot: The setting is a fantasy world born in the animators imagination. Many have commented that Klaymen resembles Earthworm Jim, also created by Doug TenNapel. Hoborg is the creator of The Neverhood and he gave life to the Klaymen and the evil Klogg in the game. Klogg has imprisoned Hoborg and tricked him into revealing the secrets of the magic Klay that brought Neverhood and its inhabitants to life. Klogg has also populated the world with his evil creations, who are wreaking havoc on the Neverhood. Klaymen is the good guy who must fight the evil klay characters, restore peace, and free Hoborg Klaymen must also grow to find his life and soul on his quest to become a truly living being.
Game play: Third person perspective claymation graphics require you to control Klaymen through the game. His sidekick Robot Bill accompanies Klaymen on his quest. Willie Trombone, Hobergs friend will help with hints. The Weasel and Klogg are evil and will try to get you and foil your attempts to help Hoberg, the creator of The Neverhood. "Simalar to most third person side view adventures," says Chuck Miller. First person perspective is used in transitional sequences where Klaymen moves between major locations.
Puzzles: Initially easy but eventually impossibly difficult puzzles which involve manipulation, combination and use of inventory items, which are kept in a woefully inadequately designed inventory. Once you pick up an item you are prevented from examining it further in your inventory, which is simply archaic when compared to other inventories used in graphic animated adventures. Puzzles are of the spatial and logic type that were seen in Myst.
Graphics: Over 50,000 frames of stop motion claymation (animated clay figures) makes this game a fantastically beautiful in animation and in backgrounds. The cut scenes are spectacular. Wonderful characterizations of the cute animated clay figures with personalities. The 640x480 pixel animation is in 256-colors.
Animation: Movement is achieved by stop frame pictures, 24-pictures per second, of clay character models that are moved ever so slightly from one frame to the next. Like Harihausen, the stop action photography in claymation is a tedious process, but the results are very rewarding. The smoothness of the animation is achieved by over 50,000 frames of stop motion animation.
Music score: Dixieland Jazz and Blues musical score composed by Terry Taylor
Sound effects: Thumps, whistles and belches are sufficient to the action were put together by Ernie Sheesley and recorded at Screen Music.
Multi-player: This is a single player game. Unfortunately there is no multi-player support.
Hints: A visit to the mailbox located below the venus flytrap room will yield new clues from Willie. In the farthest room to the right in the little house with a hole in the ceiling. You get up there by using the button that extends all the spikes to the Neverhood. You may have already passed it. Klaymen will use the spikes to get up into the hole.
The funny text in the the hall of records, provides no clues to solve the puzzles.
After a tunnel there is a green door with three deadbolts on it. Unlock them by finding and pushing the three buttons of the same colors to unlock the deadbolts. They're in places you may have already passed.
Jumping down the drain is lethal.
If you need more help you can call the Automated Hints Line for the Neverhood (available in US only), 24 hours/day, 1-900-288-KLAY at $0.75 cents per minute (US dollars). Like many others in this genre The Neverhood has established a difficult game, which some feel is impossible, that requires you to seek outside help, which is conveniently just a 900 line call away. Don't miss-dial the number or you may end up talking to an X rated hotline.
Reviewers: Johnny Wilson reminds us that no matter how painful the gameplay or how hard a game is, if the eye candy is worth it, we will endure the hardship and pain, just to see the next wonderful screen. Daniel Morris reminds us that ragtime is the music Woody Allen bungles to. Chuck calls Neverhood a "malleable world."
Joe Hutsko, http://www.gamespot.com/adventure/nhood/reviews.html#gamespotreview, (49%).
Johnny L. Wilson, Computer Gaming World, number 148, November, 1996, pg. 200-205.
Daniel Morris, PC Games, volume 3, number 12, December, 1996, pg. 114-116, A, (95%).
Todd Vaughn, PC Gamer, volume 3, number 12, December, 1996, pg. 258, (40%).
Chuck Miller, Computer Player, volume 3, number 7, December, 1996, pg. 78, (80%).