It’s pretty difficult to quantify which games actually whip ass, mostly because it’s a little subjective. That being said, if barrelling through the streets of a futuristic, neon-glazed Detroit, hopping over pursuing cop cars and racing through business offices and factories to the tune of an engrossing soundtrack doesn’t whip ass, I don’t know what does.
That’s the promise of Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield. In fact, that’s all the context you’re given at the outset of Never Yield, as you’re simply plonked on a 2D side scrolling level and tasked to run as fast as you possibly can through an eye-popping recreation of Detroit. There’s no time to pause and explain why there’s an evil doppelganger of protagonist Wally haunting you, nor why you’re actually legging it away from the cops in the first place.
That’s all well and good, because what’s in front of you is a genuine banger. Wally leaps, ducks, and slides gracefully around objects in his path, with the breakneck pace of Never Yield slowing down by just a split second when he elegantly conquers an obstacle. There’s just enough slowdown to make you appreciate the deft animations of Never Yield, before the pace is cranked right up again and you’re back to pacing through buildings and along rooftops.
Perhaps “banger” is actually better used to describe Never Yield’s score. Jazz is pretty synonymous with Detroit, which emerged as a cultural powerhouse for blues and jazz in the early 20th century, and Never Yield feels at times like it’s paying homage to the jazz scene, with trumpets and other brass instruments punctuating the non-stop action. Combine that with a beautifully smooth percussion line underscoring the entire game, and Never Yield’s soundtrack is genuinely one of the best things I’ve heard in years.
Every press of a key to vault over an object like a desk or chain fence is heralded by a round of trumpets, or a crash of cymbals. It’s almost like the music is willing Wally onwards towards freedom - or whatever his ambiguous goal is in this whole affair. Never Yield feels like it’s basking in the culture of the city in which it was developed, but it also melds music and action together into one short, sweet experience that never outstays its welcome, running for just north of an hour in total.
This whole game is a single developer’s endeavour. I still remember being inspired by Neil Jones’ cool charisma when he revealed Never Yield would be coming to Nintendo Switch during an Indie Direct, and subsequently stunned when I realised he was the entirety of Never Yield’s dev team. It’s an astonishing feat that Jones managed to pull off Never Yield, developing the sublime 2D runner with an electrifying aesthetic and score entirely by himself.
Never Yield might be the most overlooked game of 2021. I didn't even know about the game until Jones’ Indie Direct presentation, when the release date was right around the corner. It’s a fascinating little experience, a testament to Jones’ abilities as a developer that he was able to put out the entire project by himself, and an insatiable adventure in its own right. Never Yield deserves recognition equal to how satisfying it is to play.