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Throwback Thursday: The Neverhood

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About that Doug TenNapel guy… you know who I’m talking about, right? The same dude who brought the world Earthworm Jim? Yeah, him. He’s a fellow with some strange ideas, isn’t he? Oddball characters and offbeat humour are his specialties, so it’s not too surprising that a few of his works flew under the radar of mainstream appeal. Today we’ll be looking at The Neverhood, one of TenNapel’s efforts which graced the world way back in the Windows 95 era in the form of a point-‘n’-click adventure game.

The Neverhood puts players in the feet of Klaymen, who is a bizarre, vaguely humanoid creature with a slight resemblance to a duck. True to his name, Klaymen is rendered entirely out of clay, which isn’t a problem since the world he inhabits shares the same properties. That’s right, folks: the entire game was constructed out of two tons of clay, long before anybody thought of The Swapper. While it may sound like a playable chunk of claymation, the title’s theme and tone veers off into a somewhat different, surreal direction.

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Our protagonist wakes up and has to find out where he is and what his world is all about. This begins an epic descent deep into the game’s internal mythology, which details the creation of the clay universe and the role of its supreme being. Along the way, players will solve puzzles that aren’t too difficult but nonetheless require a bit of abstract thinking and unconventional logic to solve. Naturally, Klaymen’s path will also be blocked by traps and the odd enemy, but the entire affair never takes itself too seriously and frequently resorts to absurdist, slapstick humour. Don’t expect it to make too much sense and you’ll be just fine.

Despite getting good reviews in the gaming press, the title didn’t sell well. Its failure is attributed to everything from its inherent weirdness to the dwindling appeal of adventure games at the time. It earned enough recognition to spawn a sequel called Skullmonkeys a few years later, though it wasn’t a point-‘n’-clicker and it was released only for the original PlayStation. It’s a brutally hard platformer that also didn’t sell well, so it’s unlikely we’ll be seeing anything else set in the Neverhood universe any time soon. The good news is that TenNapel and his merry band of misfits are working on a spiritual sequel to The Neverhood called Armikrog, so hopefully we can expect more strange and zany antics in the future.

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If you want to give it a stab on a modern PC, you’re in luck, because I can confirm that it does indeed work in Windows 7 and Windows 8, albeit with some very minor tweaking. The difficult part will be getting hold of a copy: it’s neither available on Steam nor GOG.com, so right now your best bet is Amazon, eBay or some other site that supports second-hand sales. Before you decide to investigate this iconic piece of ’90s gaming, take a look at the trailer below and get your neurons firing.

  • elysium

    I hope I’m not the only person who gave up on reading those 37 screens worth of text. Seriously, I really enjoyed the game as a whole, don’t get me wrong, but… the walls of the Neverhood chronicle weren’t particularly interesting or clever or funny, it was just far too many screens of text that went out of their way to be as strange and use as many weird-sounding words and names as physically possible.

    Anyways, it’s also worth noting is that ScummVM just added official support for The Neverhood in their recent update.

    • Delano

      I agree with you that the scripture is entirely too long-winded for its own good and a definite minus in an otherwise fine game.

      I honestly didn’t know that it was playable in ScummVM! Looks like they only added support a few days ago. That certainly makes things a lot easier. Thanks a ton for the head’s up, kind stranger!

    • caroemperhazy

      I played this game being very young so no, I didn’t read it then- I found a transcript, however, long after that, and actually found it quite funny! It has a bunch of parallelisms with the bible, and some other parts are just plain re-naming and re-telling biblical characters and stories in a delightfully absurd way..

      • elysium

        Even as someone who has played a LOT of adventure games,
        including old ones where you had to read *everything*, I just thought that
        having that much somewhat unnecessary text in-game was a bit excessive, especially since you did also have to walk past all of it even if you didn’t read it.
        So you do have a point: it’s probably better if read outside of the game, but in the game, it just feels like it drags it to a complete halt. It’d be better, I think, if all of it were in the manual instead, like was done in older games.

    • Nathan Robins

      I read it all and found it very interesting. Having a good knowledge of the Bible helps to actually understand any of the humour and quirkiness in the text.

      • elysium

        Yeah, that’s probably the problem I had then… I’m one of them atheist types, and never went out of my way to read the Bible, so I guess a lot of it was a bit lost on me. :P

  • RustyPieLover

    I found this game okay-ish, i still preferred earthworm jim…wish they had made it right. But i guess, we can compare any fail game, that was SUPPOSED to make a triumphant return a Duke Nukem Forever fail

    http://www.youtube.com/Rustypieloverer, if you guys would be awesome and check it out, by the blessings of Lord GabeN

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