The unique structure of Never Give Up is interesting to the point that you almost forget how brutally difficult the platformer is.
You play as an adorable blue person, woken by an alarm. You have to escape toxic fumes as they flood the building you’re in. For some reason, you have to flee through multiple floors that are packed with spikes, blades, lasers, pits of lava and various other dangerous obstacles that stand between you and the exit.
If you die, you splatter all over the room. In a very Super Meat Boy fashion, when you revive and try again, you’ll have to run through your own remains to get by, your blood from another life dripping from the spinning sawblades that caught you in your previous attempt.
The game’s Groundhog Day approach to levels eases you into the tougher parts. Each time you complete a level, it respawns with more traps and spikes and pitfalls that might kill you along the way. After completing a level once, you approach the next one with a sense of confidence born of genuine success. But it doesn’t last. You have to play through each level six or more times, with each harder than the last.
This way, you get to know the rough layout of each level, but there’s still a lot of surprising and unexpected things waiting for you. Sometimes, the idea that you know what’s coming makes the shock of certain new elements of each level more intense.
The really unique thing about Never Give Up, though, if the fact that you always have the option just to quit and skip to the next floor. You can come back and revisit it at another time, or just leave it. You’re not exactly punished for. But there is a certain satisfaction in knowing that you can quit at any time and knowing that you are making a conscious decision to stick it out and complete the challenge on your own before you get to the next bit.
The only catch is that you have to have died a certain number of times before you can give up. There is a meter in the bottom corner of the screen that fills a little bit more with blood each time you meet a gruesome end. Getting through each level without filling it up is the real challenge.
Never Give Up is a clever approach to platformers that offers you the motivation to keep going built right into the structure.
The Switch controls are easy to pick up – you run, you jump, you slide across the ground. You can collect coins and costumes to give your character a bit of personality as you can. There are bonuses in difficult to reach areas. It even has a great sense of humour, with a voiceover that acknowledges the weirdness of the game, complete with pop culture references and little regard for the fourth wall.
It definitely offers something different to a lot of platformers, with a fast pace and a generally fun approach.