Remember Kaizo platformers? Maybe you’d rather not – they did drive quite a few people to insanity back in the day, after all. Let me refresh your memory. Kaizo platformers (I liked to call them “frustration platformers” back in the day, but the Kaizo term refers to the Super Mario World romhack that inspired the fad) is a hyper-difficult platform game where the entire point is that you’d die a lot. They were the predecessors to today’s streambait games thanks to their popularity on YouTube.
For the longest time you couldn’t get away from those crazy Kaizo games, but they’ve largely fell out of popularity these days. But that doesn’t mean we don’t see a new one every now in then, as with Never Give Up.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: you’re stuck in a lab forced to perform in experiments at the whim of a malicious, but unseen aggressor. That’s the plot of Portal! It was also the plot of endless Flash games back when those were a thing and Valve’s Portal was still the relatively new hotness. Now it’s the plot of Never Give Up.
Each area is technically a single room, one that gets harder and harder each time you clear it. You’ll recognize sections from previous “runs” as you progress. Eventually a single room is a fairly long and painful experience, one which may or may not have checkpoints depending on the difficulty you’ve chosen. You’ll have to dodge buzzsaws, missiles, lasers and of course the old Kaizo standby: spikes. Tons and tons and tons of spikes. Spikes everywhere.
Control is key for this sort of thing and Never Give Up is largely up to the task. Your character doesn’t slip and slide as much as it feels like he should – something like N has a character that’s basically covered in grease, for instance, while Never Give Up’s hero is a bit stickier. It takes some getting used to, but it’s rare that anything feels unfair. Naturally, if you think a level is a little too hard, you can give up (!), but per the name that’s not an especially good idea since you won’t accrue any progression outside of getting to try the next level. Like the game says – never give up!
I mentioned Flash games a bit ago and that’s what Never Give Up looks and feels like. That’s not a surprise given its pedigree, coming from Armor Games and all. Graphics and sound alike are solid enough to merit this being a paid experience, though there’s a constant stream of pretty terrible voice-acted jokes that drag things down a little. Maybe it’s just not my style.
Still, Kaizo platform games certainly are my style – it helps when every other game isn’t another one of them – and Never Give Up does a commendable job on that front. Like the title says, here is a game that rewards patience and persistence, multiple playthroughs and, well, never giving up when everything seems lost. Never Give Up plays out as a breath of fresh air rather than a rancid, overused fart from a bygone era. I’m not sure that kind of praise will make a brag-worthy pull quote, but there’s enough here to earn Never Give Up an easy recommendation.