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.
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.
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.