When I think about how I choose what games I want to play I admittedly go down a checklist.
Is this game accessible, does it have a low barrier of entry, easily recommendable and so on. On top of that list, is this game created and or lead by marginalized developers?
With that in mind Aerial Knight's (Neil Jones) Never Yield becoming my game of the year was no surprise to me. I had a lot of fun with the experience and that stayed with me throughout 2021.
The title asks you the question of how far can you outrun danger that doesn't seem to give up.
Never Yield's narrative is minimal for the sake of brevity as the game wants to hold your attention when you're short on time-a god send. The game is a constant runner where you're a young Black man with a mechanical prosthetic leg on the run. He's something of a super-powered speedster that uses his agility and abilities to evade his would-be kidnappers.
Morning, noon, and night, our hero, who's outfit is inspired by Eddie Murphy's Alex Foley of Beverly Hills Cop, never seems to get a moment of rest across 12 levels.
The title started to click with me, playing the game feels almost like I'm looking at an analogy of daily life. For many people, myself included, it feels like we're getting through the day, a small goal, something within reach. Other times we're running away from danger for our dear life but it doesn't seem like we can escape completely.
The game has four basic controls; you can run faster, slide under debris, hop over dangers, or somersault over large obstacles.
We don't exactly know what our hero is thinking but it's pretty clear that he doesn't want to go back to being a lab experiment. As someone that runs miles every day, I too am a big proponent of moving ahead to the future and not wanting to look back nor stand still.
It's also reassuring seeing this character who isn't defined by worn out stereotypes and tropes. He isn't physically imposing, violent, or strong. He's resourceful, incredibly fast, agile, and looks like he could be found anywhere.
Now running away from it all and wanting to be left alone? I really feel that for many reasons. I don't need this hero to speak or a complicated plot to understand what's very relatable.
The game hits its stride (sorry) when you're running through stages and clearing its obstacles without making a mistake with well-timed jumps, flips, and somersaults.
Now, being a music aficionado, I would be remiss to not mention the great score of Never Yield by lead composer Daniel Watkins. This isn't surprising considering he worked on the project along with Jones from the beginning.
From start to finish the soundtrack doesn't miss a step as our hero moves along his journey.
The best example of the scoring I can provide is during level 9. You're running through the street dodging pursuers as night falls. You find yourself then running for your life through a school. Watkins' piano and bass heavy soundtrack "There's no rules after school" plays in the background throughout the stage.
After a minute or so a trumpet joins the production almost as if it's announcing things are getting more dangerous and it does. The song then transitions into a brief melodic guitar interlude offering a reprieve and moment of rest. It then returns to bass and piano keys as you make your way out of the school to escape.
The game also presents another theme throughout it; sometimes you can't outrun your problems. The game portrays this in a unique series of action sequences and the end result is well...something worth seeing I'll say that much.
Never Yield isn't a violent game in the sense that most games require you to inflict harm to save the day, for example.
It asks you to try and move along for dear life to save yourself. At the end of the day, I don't think I've played something in recent memory that really spoke to what real life often feels like.
The hero's outfit is nice as hell, did I mention that?