Skullmonkeys/Neverhood comparison

I reinstalled The Neverhood and played through a bit of it to see if my earlier comments were at all accurate. If anything, I understated things. I called the look “handmade”, but I didn’t specify that the scenery had finger gouges all over the place.

I also mentioned the impression of three-dimensionality. This goes way beyond the look of the graphics. The Neverhood goes to great pains to give an impression that the gameworld is a single continuous physical object, using the tricks employed by graphical adventures from Myst onward. You get maps, glimpses through windows of distant locations that you’ll visit later, puzzles based on adjacency of locations you can’t walk between directly, and physical manipulation of large landscape features to alter what locations are accessible. Presumably many of the backdrops were assembled and photographed individually, but some of the exterior scenes had to have been done by moving a camera around inside a large clay model. Skullmonkeys, by contrast, is clearly a disjointed series of levels assembled out of sprites. How disjointed? Travelling from level to level involves jumping into a “warp gate”. Even though some of the level graphics in Skullmonkeys are quite attractive (particularly the “Castle de los Muertos” level, which involves running across battlements in silhouette against a red sky), I have to call The Neverhood’s overall approach more impressive.

The one area where Skullmonkeys really beats Neverhood is in its framerate. The Neverhood‘s animation looks unbelievably clunky after playing Skullmonkeys for a while. It doesn’t take long to get used to it, though.

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