Never Give Up is a moderately challenging but unremarkable platformer that still looks, sounds, and plays like a browser game from the mid-2000s.
Never Give Up is a game that really, really wants you to give up. As part of the "masocore" subgenre of platformers popularized by the excellent Super Meat Boy, the game is designed around trial and error, twitch-reflex platforming and increasingly difficult levels. There have been a number of great games in the masocore subgenre over the years, including Celeste, VVVVVV, and Super House of Dead Ninjas. On the other hand, there have been just as many (if not more) bad masocore platformers. I Wanna Be The Guy and 1001 Spikes, for example, are games simply designed to torment the player with unforeseeable traps and other malicious hazards. Never Give Up doesn't exactly fit into either of these categories - it contains plenty of decently challenging platforming, but does virtually nothing unique or worthwhile within the subgenre. The result is a platformer that feels outdated in every way, and there are quite a few reasons for that.
Developed by Massive Monster and published by Armor Games, Never Give Up is technically a sequel to the old browser game series Give Up. True to its roots, Never Give Up puts the player in control of a simple blue stick figure whose only goal is to jump and slide his way through a series of ever-more-deadly rooms in order to find out where he is and why this is happening to him. A big red "GIVE UP" button sits at the bottom of the screen, and the game tries to taunt you into using it at every opportunity. However, Never Give Up adds a few significant things to this old premise: fully voiced dialogue and something that resembles a plot. That's where the game first starts to show how far behind the times it is.
The blue stick figure (voiced by Arin Hanson of "Game Grumps" fame) wakes up to the sound of sirens blaring and gas filling his room. As he escapes through a door, he ends up in a chamber full of traps that only get more and more dangerous each time he thinks he's escaped. The story itself is kept to a bare minimum and carries on in mostly the same way, but it's the cringe-worthy writing that Never Give Up truly wants to focus on. The blue protagonist is constantly quipping away, making bad puns or obvious observations about his situation. The game's outmoded sense of humor is complete with censored curse words and very timely references to things like Donnie Darko and Portal. The experience becomes much more tolerable by turning the voice-overs down to zero and just enjoying the music of the game while you play.
Ironically, the actual platforming is the least painful part of Never Give Up. While it doesn't have the raw speed or precision of a game like Super Meat Boy, there's still a fair amount of floaty fun to be had with the simple but solid controls. Double-jumping over spike pits, sliding under sawblades and leaping from wall to wall is satisfying enough, but the repetitive level design is where the gameplay falters. The game's levels are deliberately reused multiple times in a row, scaling up the difficulty and number of hazards each time in order to whittle down the player's execution into a near-perfect fit for that level. There's still a sense of accomplishment after overcoming an especially hard set of levels, but the truth is that playing the same level over and over again with minor alterations just isn't very interesting or fun in the long term.
Outside of that, Never Give Up doesn't have much going for it in terms of uniqueness or quality. The negligible story, uninspired bosses and very basic art design and animation leave a lot to be desired by the end of the relatively short campaign. This is the kind of game that seems to be targeting YouTubers for the sole purpose of making them rage for entertainment, and by extension, influencing their viewers to buy it. If you don't fall into one of those two groups of people, we can't really recommend Never Give Up.
Never Give Up is available now on Steam and Nintendo Switch for $14.99. Screen Rant was provided with a digital PC copy for the purpose of this review.