In Konami’s NeverDead, your arms come off, but you can still use them, and decapitation provides excellent scouting possibilities. You’re cursed with immortality and forced to live with regret over past mistakes and all your personal flaws. Wow, what a great premise for a game! I want to love it because it seems like such a big win on the mechanics and story front. Unfortunately, it doesn’t deliver on its potential.
In the game, you are Bryce Boltzman, a demon hunter partnered with a snarky, sexy(?) blonde who only speaks to you with disdain. The combat is frenetic and set in interesting and well-rendered locales, all of which are very interactive. You can hurt enemies with architecture you destroy, which is a good idea and makes sense, because in many games, you can destroy mountains, but that window or wooden door is impenetrable. Damage is also shown by combat’s effect on your body, like your leg is torn off. Again, cool, no HUD, easy to read, fine. The game should be great.
If you play it, play it on easy. Combat starts as pretty fun, electrifying yourself, setting fire to yourself or tearing off your own head to solve puzzles or engage in a battle. You can use your limbs as bombs or turrets by ripping them off and throwing them strategically. Unfortunately, the fighting doesn’t stay fun, the camera is hard to control, and the fighting is fast-paced and from all over. I never got time to really play with the mechanics.
By the middle, your body is falling apart all the time, which wouldn’t be a bad challenge, except who knows if one hit is going to ruin you or four. Plus, there are these demons called grandbabies that roll around trying to ingest your head, and if they do, then game over. You can never stop grandbabies from coming; kill one and it is immediately replaced. So now, not only can you not quite see what is going on, and you have been neutralized in combat, but you need to find your limbs or wait to regenerate them, while these babies try to suck you in. It becomes an exercise in frustration.
While there are many ways to adjust and level up Bryce, none of them make you any more cohesive, and all of this is made even more strange by the fact you can not seem to hold yourself together after one hit, and your abusive, fleshy partner in a short sweater skirt has no problem withstanding multiple demon attacks. Oh yeah, and the final boss batte is absolutely no fun.
NeverDead has so much potential, with a few tweaks in every area, it could be a great game: clearer combat; more abilities and ability slots (being forced to juice up your guns or your sword is stupid when you are faced simultaneously with enemies immune to one or the other); give a little more depth or a little more camp to the characters (they hover impotently between the two); and less grandbabies.
The game is worth a cheap look and definitely worth a sequel, but it never reaches its potential in its first outing. It is original and smart, but the gameplay can’t keep up with it. It’s really unfortunate that NeverDead dies about halfway through, and it doesn’t seem worth your effort to pick up the pieces.
Frag Dean is a podcaster on Silly Frags, available on iTunes, Sticher and sillyfrags.com.