Masochistic platformers aren’t exactly hard to come by these days, so new releases in the genre have to do something unique in order to catch gamer’s eyes. Never Give Up, the new release from developer Massive Monster, tries to add a clever take on the formula by having players tackle the same challenging levels over and over, all whilst adding minor changes that ramp up the difficulty. It actually makes for an engaging (and undeniably tough) platforming experience too, though it is one that can falter a little when compared to genre greats such as Super Meat Boy, 1001 Spikes or N++.
Never Give Up sees you working through a series of challenging 2D levels that demand both twitch-reactions and smart-thinking to survive. Essentially, you’ve just got to get from point A to B, but with countless hazards in your way (including the likes of spikes, lava pits, endless drops, saws, rockets, lasers and robot rhinos) it’s never made easy. Thankfully, the little blue protagonist is pretty agile, so you can run, double-jump, slide, and wall jump your way across each of the game’s levels – it’s just a case of doing the right things at the right times. Once you clear an area in-game you’ll face off against a creative boss battle, and then move on to the next set of levels.
One clever aspect of Never Give Up’s design comes with how it recycles each level but adds additional hazards to it. When you take on a level initially, it’ll be pretty straight-forward in design with just a few fairly simple hazards to be wary of. Each time you succeed though, you face the level again but this time it might be slightly longer or have additional hazards in place – the basic layout stays the same, but there will be enough changes in place to keep you on your toes. This happens a few times before you move onto the next original level.
This feature of the game has its pros and cons. One advantage is that you’ll begin to learn how to master reflexes a bit quicker, especially since you’ll be tackling some of the same instances of having to avoid the same hazards multiple times; it allows you to practice and get better at the game a lot more efficiently, even if it does mean doing the same things over and over. On the flip-side, this genre of game typically offers a very satisfying feeling for the player when they overcome a level that’d been challenging them for some time – having to do it all over again multiple times in Never Give Up after struggling initially could be INCREDIBLY frustrating on some of the later levels. It’s just one of those features that is neat in design, but isn’t always perfect for this style of challenging game.
That’s not to say that Never Give Up isn’t satisfying to play though. The controls are solid and ensure you’re always in control, the level design itself is creatively tough but fair, whilst the sparks of humour found across each level and the narrative do add a dose of charm to the experience. It just doesn’t really do anything too special to help make it stand out in the crowd though, and whilst the levels repeating and changing up is neat, I never felt like Never Give Up offered something that I’d never seen before.
At least there’s plenty to do in the game, with a ton of levels to play through, collectibles to find (which are in tricky places to reach), and costumes to unlock. Then there’s the fact that the game allows you to ‘Give Up’ if you struggle on a level too much – doing so allows you to move onto the next one, but not without the game mocking you first. Believe me, it’ll hurt your pride to do so, but sometimes you won’t be able to resist. There’s no denying that Never Give Up has plenty of character and it’ll take you a good few hours to see everything that it has to offer.
Never Give Up offers a platforming experience that’s both fun and challenging, but it lacks that SOMETHING to help make it stand out as an essential release. It’s not that it does anything bad (although some of those repeated levels may frustrate some gamers), but rather that it doesn’t do anything that you wouldn’t have seen before.
Still, if you’re itching for a fix of trial and error-based masochistic platforming action, it serves that up in abundance. It might not stand out in the crowd, but Never Give Up certainly gets the essentials right.
Developer: Massive Monster
Publisher: Armor Games
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC