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NeverDead is a peculiarly intriguing concept. Suda 51 brings his distinctive weight to bear in a game that leverages macabre dismemberment and decapitation in an effort to freshen up the action brawling genre.
It's a game that many will find things to criticise in. I suspect it won't be getting hugely high scores elsewhere. I'm not sure if it is my age, or just reflects the sorts of games I like, but I actually really enjoyed NeverDead.
For a start I appreciated the way it cuts to the chase nice and quickly. So many games these days spend forever establishing characters and motives before you can actually get on and playing -- as you may have guessed I'm not a huge fan of the Uncharted series. Endless dialogue and funny looks to camera, spare me!
At first it appears to be just another slash em up brawler like have become commonplace the last few years. I've played through all of Devil May Cry, Bayonetta and even Vanquish. They are great games with well balanced controls and a range of enemies and environments that keep you on your toes.
NeverDead is very different. This is both a good and a bad thing. While the controls may not be as tip top as Devil May Cry and the locations a drab imitation of Bayonetta (I won't even mention Vanquish) there is an inventive freedom here that made the game hugely appealing to me.
This stems from the central play mechanic where your character is intentionally (and sometimes unintentionally) dismembered. This loose-limbed ability enables you to access parts of the world that would otherwise remain out of reach.
This sounds both gruesome and odd but works very well.
When you are fighting you generally want to keep yourself assembled. This turns what is usually a button mashing exercise for me into more of a puzzle game. You see, if you have lost your torso and limbs you need to reconnect your head to the different body parts in order to regain your fighting chances.
While this sounds both gruesome and odd, it actually works very well in the game. You have to work very carefully to reattach all the various bits of yourself, and take care not to loose a limb in a position that will make it hard to get to later on.
As NeverDead continued I was expecting it to introduce more variety into the gameplay, to develop the ideas of dismemberment. However, and this is the main negative for me, it seemed content to repeat the same limb lopping trick over and over. For me this wasn't a problem as I genuinely enjoyed these fights, but those with less of an appetite for gore, or wanting a bit more diversity in their games may find this a little bit samey.
I know it won't be winning many awards this year.
Being something of a multiplayer gamer, I was keen to find what sort of co-op and competitive options NeverDead had to offer. I wasn't disappointed. There are a great set of co-op challenges that add that much needed spice in the form of other human players. Four of you can play these levels together online (no split screen unfortunately) and it really adds another dimension to the tactics you need to employ in the game -- or maybe my online friends are just sneakier than me.
NeverDead became my kick-back-and-chill-out game for a good couple of weeks -- I really enjoyed its slightly rough around the edges approach to brawling, and get very adept at falling apart in just the right way so I could reassemble myself quick enough to surprise the various enemies.
I know it won't be winning many awards this year, but for me it was money well spent.
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