Have you ever dreamt that you were running through a neon-fueled action movie, on the run from mysterious forces whilst chaos reigns overhead?
No? Just me?
Well in that case, this game is a dream come true. The first time I spotted this Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield during a recent Nintendo Direct, the art style drew me in and made me pay attention, but I was cautiously optimistic.
‘Aerial_Knight’ is a solo developer who started the project out of passion, the vast majority of the game is made by just himself, with Headup Games being brought in as the publisher once the game was fully formed.
Boasting a gorgeous art style, engaging gameplay and a soundtrack fit for TRON, Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield is a triumph.
Story: Simplicity, For better or worse
The story of Never Yield is simple, told through the lens of short cutscenes in a graphic novel style. It is a brilliant and unique way to tell a narrative and that alongside the gorgeous visuals that seem to have taken inspiration from the No More Heroes series.
Following Wally, a young boy thrust into chaos, with his world full of mystery and colour collapsing around him. The narrative is the not the focus of Never Yield but it is present enough to not become detrimental.
That being said, some of the cutscenes are stronger and clearer than others. A few, whilst visually impressive, ask more questions than they answer. This method of storytelling is valid, but for me it was forgettable.
As the narrative progresses, details in the backgrounds of levels, from signs to pedestrians strengthen the narrative, building a living, breathing world full of colour and chaos. This strength elevates the game from simple side-scroller to a snapshot of another world. Admittedly, however, there are a few levels that feel too similar to others, padding out artificial length.
By comparison, levels such as 5, 12 and 13 are stunning, showcasing the very best ideas that it has to offer. The level design whilst utilised well, could’ve been expanded further, I was hoping for more variety in locations, from both a world-building and gameplay position.
Gameplay: Never Yield to Difficulty
Never Yield is an explosive runner game experience that favours reaction speed and concentration to succeed. Each player input matters and I cannot emphasise enough the strength of its simple control scheme.
However, whilst the gameplay of Never Yield is incredibly fun and intuitive, with one major annoying caveat; the difficulty.
I love accessibility options in games, especially difficulty. They serve an important purpose in allowing anyone to access the medium and the general discourse surrounding difficulty itself can be frustrating. However, Never Yield gets it wrong in a major way.
The base difficulty, ‘Normal’ is the worst way to experience the game. Thankfully you unlock the two harder difficulties after the tutorial, but my concern is that for many, the first playthrough on normal is so detrimental, they may forego exploring the harder modes. So boost up that difficulty!
Essentially, normal difficulty grants an egregiously frustrating slow-down time mechanic when you approach a hazard, with the idea being that it’s forgiving for the player. However, the mechanic is not well implemented, slowing down the gameplay to a snail’s pace at times, killing the beauty of the title – whilst also making it easy to jump or slide too early. If the game was only available with its normal mode, it would likely receive half the score it has from me.
Thankfully, the higher difficulties, the hardest in particular, ‘Insane’ is fantastic and I’d recommend it as the perfect way to play the game.
This difficulty rewards precision and skill, resulting in some phenomenal feats when you perfect a run. The final level on insane is the peak of the game’s difficulty and is genuinely phenomenal to both play and witness when performed.
The basic premise revolves around four moves; dash, jump, slide and backflip. The four moves are a lot of fun and create a great sense of variety – although I would’ve liked to see these mechanics played around with more. For example, the final level flips the screen for a number of sections and it was an interesting moment that left me wishing they had experimented more with the gameplay.
Graphics and Audio: Neon Synthwave Goodness
If there are two words I love, they’re neon and synth-wave. This game is dripping in both.
The game has an attitude, one that I adored. It doesn’t conform, the artistic style wishes to complicate not consolidate. The use of colour is outstanding, creating a world that is stunning to look at, let alone run through. If you vibe at all with the screenshots presented, it is a must-play.
That alone would be impressive, but the soundtrack is equally so at times, building a symbiotic relationship between sound and game design, that results in a medley worthy of praise.
My only gripe with the music is that I wish there was more of it. Some tracks whilst incredible are repeated a few times, and when they are they lose a little bit of their power and memorable status.
I think the title that has done that best was Simogogames’ 2019 hit Sayonara Wild Hearts which revolutionised music within video games like these. That being said, the love and care poured into Never Yield is palpable; it is a triumph that one person completed the majority of the work.
The music of Never Yield is provided by ‘Danime-Sama’ a Detroit-based artist, with vocals provided from all other the world. I eagerly await the tracks from the game to become available on streaming services; a truly wonderfully unique sound that the game achieves, which for me is what I will remember most.