For a 2D platformer to stand out on the Switch it needs to offer something pretty special, the existing line-up of quality examples already large and continuing to grow. Nintendo themselves unsurprisingly cater to the genre with the likes of Yoshi’s Crafted World, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and Super Mario Maker 2 while other developers have also added plenty to the pile in the form of Sonic Mania, Cuphead, Rayman Legends: Definitive Edition, Celeste and Super Meat Boy. I could keep going, to be honest. Never Give Up looks to join this elite club delivering an experience in line with the devilish level design and snappy action of Super Meat Boy and Celeste whilst injected a few new ideas of its own. It’s these ideas however that ultimately drags the experience down.
The hook of Never Give Up is that each stage consists of a series of rooms that all share the same or similar level design. With every room you successfully pass, the level itself will then alter slightly throwing in more obstacles or adding new sections, essentially making it tougher. This incline in difficulty can include the addition of physical objects such as spinning blades, lasers and rocket launchers to stretching out the level itself and making traversing certain sections harder.
It’s a neat idea but one that also brings with it a feeling of repetition as you’ll often find yourself repeating chunks of a level over and over. Each stage will see you taking on five or more rooms in a row and while it’s enjoyable seeing areas morph into more nightmarish versions you may also find sections changing little or not at all. Given the choice, I’d prefer a game like Super Meat Boy that continually throws entirely new levels at me as opposed to Never Give Up’s idea.
Your blue stick figure character in Never Give Up handles pretty well, his abilities covering the usual repertoire of jumps, slides and wall jumps. Much like the games it’s clearly inspired by, making it through a level is all about being precise with your movements and often good timing. There’s also an element of trial and error too as you’ll constantly find yourself falling victim to a surprise rocket or laser as the level alters. It feels enjoyable enough to play – albeit not as slick as something like Celeste or Super Meat Boy – it’s just the sort of thing we’ve seen done countless times before.
The game’s story kicks off with our lead’s room filling with a nasty gas forcing him to then run through a gauntlet of obstacle-filled courses. You’ll face off against a number of bosses along the way but overall the story really is secondary to the action itself. Arin Hanson of Game Grumps fame voices your character which may please fans of the channel but sadly the writing prevents you from enjoying him or any of the other vocals.
The visuals do little to impress, the whole look and feel more in line with a smartphone release than anything else. That’s not to say it’s a bad looking game, but rather just one that like its gameplay does little to stand out from other more visually appealing games of this genre – Yoshi’s Crafted World and Cuphead being two examples that immediately spring to mind.
Another thing I’m not really a fan of is the game’s dated sense of humor and the constant comments being made by the characters throughout. Expect plenty of bleeped-out swearing and straight repeats of quotes from famous movies all used in an unimaginative and lazy way. It wouldn’t be so bad if this was restricted to the limited cutscenes but unfortunately, you’ll hear plenty of annoying quips and remarks as you play too. Thankfully you can turn the voices off.
Never Give Up doesn’t have much to offer that you haven’t already seen before from the genre and any attempt it does try at separating itself from the herd, unfortunately, make the experience worse rather than better. From its dated sense of humor and ho-hum art style to its uninspired premise of repeating slowly evolving levels Never Give Up is a tough recommendation especially when there are far better examples already out there that won’t leave you rolling your eyes with embarrassment.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Armor Games Studios