Ready, Set… GO!
An ongoing debate in the gamer community is how long games should be. Though generally speaking, I tend to gauge value based on how expansive something is, that’s not to say short games aren’t worthwhile. In fact, some of the shortest games I’ve played have affected me the most. This brings us to Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield. Created by Neil “Aerial_Knight” Jones, it’s a stylish and unique platformer. Set in a futuristic Detroit, it places you in the role of Wally. Recently escaped from some shady facility, it’s his goal to keep on running and thus escape pursuit by malevolent forces. Yet all that aside, the game is incredibly short, and I beat it in under an hour. The question now is, do I think it’s still worth the price of admission?
First Things First
Now, I did play the demo for Never Yield before tackling the review build. And since then, pretty much all of my impressions about the game remain the same. But let’s refresh everyone’s memory real quick. The game is a fast-paced platformer with a distinct and attractive art style and tremendous tunes. Much as I typically don’t pay a lot of attention to the music in games, it’s really integral here. And it’s also super catchy. It’s mostly upbeat jazzy tunes that you’ll be tapping your feet to in short order. Hell, if I were evaluating Never Yield just based on the music and artwork, it’d probably receive a perfect score. Alas, I need to cover every element of the game thoroughly, and not just those high points.
Parkour Is Putting It Lightly
I really enjoyed the core gameplay loop. It’s easy to pick up and doesn’t take much time to master, which is good since one mistake returns you to the last checkpoint, unless you prefer restarting the stage from the beginning. As you continuously race forwards, Wally has 4 options. You can press up to high jump over an object; press left to vault over something; press down to slide underneath; and press right to dash even faster. Each of these options is conveniently color-coded. Up is red, Left is orange, Down is purple, and Right is light blue. The reason that’s so helpful is each obstacle is color-coded accordingly. You’ll even get a glimpse of upcoming hazards on the right side of the screen as a sort of spray of color. This lets you reach frantic speeds while still responding promptly.
Additionally, on most difficulties, you’ll get a moment of slow down as you press any input. This has helped me do some truly death-defying maneuvers, and it does make the game feel like a futuristic parkour simulator. Wally will flip over cars, slide under drones, vault through wooden grates, and dash through glass screens. It’s very easy to get lost in the game’s rhythm, especially when it’s paired with such amazing music.
Not Quite a Stoplight
What might surprise you is to hear that the color-coding, though helpful, is more of a guide than a requirement. For example, you might have an orange hazard coming your way. You’re welcome to vault over it, but you could also high jump to get past it. This comes into play with special coins you’ll find in some stages. They’re deviously placed and require unusual movements to obtain. Once you do, you’ll get a chance to play a bonus stage after beating the main stage. These are retro-themed and super challenging. Though each one is essentially the same, beating it has thus far evaded me. And if you’re a completionist, you’ll need to beat the bonus stage once to unlock something.
While most of the stages are pretty much identical in terms of how they play out, there are some curveballs. There’s a handful of boss stages thrown into the mix. They have the same stakes, where getting hit once kills you. The difference is that they are much more aggressive in trying to kill you than in most stages. The first one has you jumping over missiles. That wasn’t a bad introduction, but a later boss fight was far more impressive. It has you spending the first part of the stage avoiding a van trying to careen into you. Then when it gets ahead of you, the back doors open, and someone starts throwing dangerous musical notes at you. It’s utterly absurd and wholly delightful. My main gripe about the boss fights is that there’s not more of them. Especially given the entirety of Never Yield is some 13 stages.
Now, though the game is short, there are some unlockables. Those are a variety of outfits you’ll be able to have Wally wear. Besides looking good, the main thrust of replayability is playing the game on harder difficulties. I actually really enjoy playing it on Hard but haven’t mustered the courage for Insane. At least not yet. While I don’t mind challenging myself to play a game better, I’m not a huge fan of competitive speedrunning. And since the game is seemingly geared towards that community, you may find Never Yield is only worth one playthrough.
Stylish Yet Confusing
Earlier I talked about the visual style of the game. It’s beautiful, but it’s hard to accurately portray that in still images. The game is incredibly fast, and the screenshots frankly don’t do it justice. There are also some really cool comic book cutscenes meant to express the story of Never Yield. Though I can guess at some elements, I’m honestly perplexed by the plot. Wally seems to have superhuman abilities, which is part of why the action slows down briefly before he reacts. He even seems to gain other abilities temporarily, running vertically up a building in one noteworthy stage. And it’s clear he’s being pursued by someone that looks a lot like an evil clone of him. But besides all that, I’m clueless. The ending perplexed me, especially given there are no subtitles or voice acting. I’m intrigued by what’s going on, but I’d be more invested if I knew what was happening.
Race To The Finish
Even then, I still rather liked Never Yield. It’s decidedly short but irrefutably sweet. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s a great example of why short games can still be worthwhile. And even though there are some awkward design choices, such as not being able to play specific stages at a whim after beating the game, that’s not enough to diminish how fun it is. I honestly hope this is just the first in a long series. Cause I’m curious about who Wally is and why he has such powers. Here’s hoping Neil Jones has more fast-paced stories to tell in the immediate future.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PC; Publisher: Headup Games; Developer: Aerial_Knight; Players: 1; Released: May 19, 2021; ESRB: T for Teen – Blood, Violence; MSRP: $11.99
Editor’s note: The publisher provided a review copy to Hey Poor Player.