My dad has introduced me to some pretty cool games. I piloted ships in X-Wing and Tie Fighter, I cried out of pure frustration over Archon Ultra, and I even went through a short Duke Nuke ‘Emphase. The game I remember most, though, and the game that still fascinates me 16 years later is a cult classic called The Neverhood.
The Neverhood is a clickable adventure game, way back from the days of CD ROMS. While the game was released by DreamWorks Studios, it is the brainchild of artist Doug TenNapel. There are so many aspects unique to the game and so much to love about The Neverhood that it’s difficult to find a starting point. We’ll start with clay, because that’s what the game is made out of. 2 tons of it, if I remember right. Everything in the game is made out of clay: the characters, the buildings, the televisions and trees. Everything is stylized in a colorful, funky cartoon vision and was nothing like I had ever seen before.
You play as Klaymen, who wakes up not knowing where he is or what to do. Immediately there are puzzles and games inside The Neverhood (also made of clay) that unlock doors and elevators, bridges and cities. The puzzles aren’t your typical move-a-tile-here-then-move-
I loved The Neverhood because it was just as much fun to play as it was to wonder how such a thing was even made. Fortunately for players like myself, there were not only animated sequences that were unlocked throughout the game, but there was also a “making of” video included in the bonus content. In the video, we get to see TenNapel and the Neverhood crew at work, building sets, animating characters, and slathering everything with clay.
This game has been such a big influence on my art, and on me as an individual. It has given me permission to make pictures that I was never taught about in school, and the game has helped me to trust my instinct as a creator. I owe a lot to Doug TenNapel, and for me it all started with The Neverhood.
Words and illustration by Jess Smart Smiley