Don’t believe the title. Never Give Up, from developers Massive Monster and Tasselfoot, is a platformer that wants you to fail early and often. It will take you to your breaking point and revel in delight if you do decide to, in fact, give up. But that is part of the fun and what makes the game so easy to enjoy while at the same time, be so inexplicably frustrating.
Jumping For Joy
Never Give Up will test your patience. It’s the latest entry into the genre known as "masocore," which are video games specifically designed to frustrate players with seemingly impossible level designs (you’ve seen some of those insane Super Mario Maker 2 levels). Players take control of Blue - voiced by Arin Hanson of Game Grumps - who wakes up to a world in which he (and his dry, humorous one-liners) must navigate his way through traps and hazards that are just aching to unforgivably shred, smash, and dismember him to bits.
Each “world” that Blue visits, which include such locales as the city and an underground mine surrounded by volcanos, contains a handful of trap-filled rooms that players must run through. Each room repeats itself a handful of times, becoming more difficult with every iteration. Where once you had an open wall to use as a jump-off point, now spins a razor-sharp buzzsaw ready to tear Blue to pieces. Muscle memory is key while running through each room, but you can never settle in and get truly comfortable, since the timing will be ever-changing until making it through every room iteration.
Coins and secret items can be collected along the runs, which can be used to purchase different costumes that Blue can wear. At least when you die, you can go out in style. For speedrunners, Never Give Up provides a massive amount of appeal, assuming they know the room iterations inside and out. Runs are timed as it is, so it’s easy to try and beat your best time and avoid painting the walls red with your innards.
Live For The Pain
Even on the easiest difficulty setting (which just provides room checkpoints), Never Give Up is a challenge. The developers know this and are proud of that fact. So much so, that players are actually given the option to give up on a room and move on to the next en route to the boss level. However, doing so results in a long, drawn-out cutscene that basically tells you how pathetic you are because the game is just too hard for you (as if we didn’t already know).
Never Give Up doesn’t necessarily do anything groundbreaking in terms of its genre or overall gameplay mechanics. It does, however, succeed in bringing out our inner-most masochist as we make the same deadly mistakes over and over again, until finally reaching the utterly satisfying moment of nailing a perfectly-executed run; giving us hope that maybe - just maybe - we’ll carry that success over to the next level, before quickly returning to reality and begrudgingly repeating the process while questioning our own sanity.
4 Out Of 5 Stars
A Switch copy of Never Give Up was purchased by TheGamer for this review. Never Give Up is available now for Nintendo Switch and PC.