Looking for an adventure game with gorgeous graphics, lots of exploration, intriguing story, and characters you can identify with? Well, you’re in the wrong place! If however, you are looking for something unique, both in style and presentation, then maybe you are in the right place after all. This is a game made in Claymation, a very labor-intensive method of animation. Claymation was first seen on TV with “Gumby and Pokey” from 1956-63, on “Saturday Night Live” with “Mr. Bill” segments in the ‘70’s, and with the “California Raisins” in 1982. Characters are made from clay, and each tiny movement is filmed, frame by frame. In The Neverhood, not only the characters, but the entire environment is made from clay over wood, mesh, metal and anything else that was needed to make the odd shaped buildings. This all makes for a very haphazard looking environment, and perfect for the story.
Many adventure games use the premise of an unlikely hero who is chosen to save the world from some form of disaster. Klayman, our hero-to-be of The Neverhood, has got to be the goofiest looking hero ever! He has floppy arms and legs, a cylinder for a head with a strange topknot, huge lips and eyes that are vertical slits, with lids that appear and disappear as needed. But the best part is the use of his chest as a storage uh… chest for the inventory. The story, as mentioned is a save-the-world theme, to take control from the mean old king, who overthrew the benevolent one, sort of idea. The entire game is done tongue-in-cheek, with many humorous references. Playing tricks on the gamer is just part of the fun.
The game begins as Klayman awakens from sleep and must leave his room – only to be swallowed and spit out again by a fly-trap plant. With minor jaunts into 1st person, this game is primarily a 3rd person perspective mouse driven game. Point and click nodes direct the actual movement throughout. If you pause in the game, Klayman has several funny moves and vocalizations that will amuse you. After escaping his building, he explores a colorful and wild array of buildings and environments. Along the way he must collect 20 video cassettes to feed into the viewers along the way to provide clues and background information. Then there is the Hall of Records.
Imagine if you will, an isolated civilization where the people want to record all manner of things deemed significant only to them. There would be births, deaths, rulers, crimes, and the interconnected relationships within the settlement. Now imagine that this went on for generations, and you can begin to picture what the Hall of Records looks like. This is a long narrow hall, where each screen view will contain seven vertical clay (of course) tablets inscribed with this minutia. This hall extends for approximately forty screens worth, and (spoiler here) contains absolutely nothing you need to know. The only reason for actually reaching the end is to obtain an item for inventory. Aaaarrrrrgggghhhhh!!!!
There are two kinds of vehicles for transportation used. One is a cart that travels along the cliffside in a groove. You can’t tell where you are going, nor what direction to take even if you did know. So you go with the flow, and follow the groove! The other one looks kind of like the first, but there is a control panel where you choose a button, and Klayman is teleported to a new place. Many of the puzzles are of the open-the-door type, but creative solutions are used to allow this. One of the first, with three bolts, requires you to find a clue that doesn’t match in colors, the three locks (dirty pool here). Clues are found scattered all over the place, so it behooves you to take copious notes and drawings. And since there is considerable backtracking, you may need to recreate the same variables a second time. The time honored tradition of keeping an area unlocked once opened, doesn’t apply to all the areas here.
There are a few points where the next direction to take may not be clear, since you aren’t completely sure how to attain your objective of saving the world. I found a walkthrough helpful here, since only in retrospect did some pursuits make sense. There was one puzzle where you had to recreate on a screen, the exact order of some symbols shown to you earlier. The tricky part here was that only eleven of the twelve were shown to you, and a twelfth was added. You needed to figure out how to put that one into its correct place. Having gotten stuck here, I referred to a walkthrough, then another, then another, and another. It took me four w/t’s to finally understand the premise here! Well, in my defense, each explained the way to solve this differently, and since it is different for each game, none could give the actual solution. Whew! That was a toughy! Most of the puzzles ranged from medium to tough, with a good range of types used.
The music was written for the game and was a quirky sort of country, that suited the environments and characters very well. It was kind of jazzy at times, and just plain weird at others. In fact I couldn’t imagine any other kind of music that would have suited this funny game any better. The twanginess was just right here for the mood.
There were no glitches in getting this game to play on my Win98SE, though I did have to reduce the colors to 16 bit and the screen setting to 600 X 800. It was released in 1996 aimed toward a Win95, so this would probably run in XP with Win95 compatibility mode.
Summary – The humor in the game was not my style, but since humor is so subjective, I didn’t downgrade because of that. The originality in the presentation of this parody of classic adventure games was superb. The execution in Claymation was done perfectly in my eyes. The story was a bit hard to follow, and to know just what to do next, but the game was quite linear, so if you kept going where you could, you stumbled upon the next thing sooner or later. Clueing for the puzzles was not always done fairly, either by fact or by placement, but all puzzles were clued, and that does deserve some mention.
Score – 8.5/10
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