Game Review: 'NeverDead'


Stop me if you've heard this one before: you're a demon hunter, one who ironically derives his demon-slaying ability from being part demon himself, who dispatches his foes with either a pair of John Woo-style guns or a giant sword.  You hack apart or blow away your infernal foes with a spray of bullets and one-liners, hoping to eventually slay the big bad that killed a loved one.  Sounds like Devil May Cry, huh?  Unfortunately, it's also the derivative plot to Konami's NeverDead, a game that hopes to set itself apart by having a character that can be dismembered without being killed.  Unfortunately, this one-note novelty actually introduces more problems than its cliché plot.

The demon hunter in question is Bryce Boltzmann, a once-proud demon hunter reduced to a cynical shell after 500 years of immortality.  Bryce is now a gun-for-hire, taking his orders (but never getting paid...didn't see that one coming) from his sometimes partner and controller Arcadia.  Bryce and Arcadia are tasked (maybe "chore" would be a better word) with running through a series of stunningly generic environments—semi-apocalyptic buildings are the new black, I guess—slaying the aforementioned demons as they are spewed forth from various spawn points.  Destroying the spawn points and all of the enemies they birth gain your drab duo access to the next stage in the ho-hum gauntlet.    

This bland bisque of bloodshed is barely seasoned with the aforementioned dismemberment mechanic, in which Bryce can had his limbs torn from his body, or be reduced to nothing more than a rolling head.  This leads to a few witty action puzzles, where Bryce literally tears his own head from his shoulders and shotputs it to an inaccessible areas, but the dismembering in combat becomes absolutely agonizing.  Trying to adjust your combat strategy when you're down an arm is fun in theory until you realize that virtually any enemy in the game can, and will, reduce you to component parts with a single strike.  While Bryce's immortality ensures that these normally mortal wounds are merely a setback, the constant hobbling around trying to collect your lost limbs becomes tedium in its purest form.  As if that weren't enough, the stakes are obnoxiously raised by the "Grandbabies," amoeboid blobs of goo that can suck in Bryce's liberated noggin and lead to a game over screen if you don't complete a one-button QTE to free yourself.  While the quick mash of a button is not a difficult action (it's actually offensively easy to free yourself) when you get more than a few Grandbabies in a room, the game quickly devolves into a maddening tug-of-war between your rolling skull and the suctioning Grandbabies.

Only adding to the frustration is the abysmal dialogue.  While I'm not expecting Lord Byron from a game of this type, the neverending stream of painful puns are an assault on the ears that made the game even more painful than I originally thought possible.  Bryce's constant commentary about "falling apart" or "losing his head" is the sort of lame-duck humor that makes me grind my teeth together in unbridled rage.

When it really comes down to it, NeverDead does almost nothing right.  The occasionally interesting creature designs are buried under a miserable mire of crappy controls, dull environments, and frustrating novelty mechanics.  It's a straw-stuffed scarecrow built on a terribly implemented mechanic.

That, and it's a waste of a perfectly good Megadeth song.  Which is the greater sin, I don't know.