A grand achievement in emotional game design

Neva will make me cry It almost happened at Summer Game Fest, as the game’s intro cinematic cut to black a minute into my time with the demo. I won’t reveal what happened in those first shots, but it broke my soul. It also perfectly prepared me for the heart-pounding danger and devastating beauty I would lose myself in for the next 45 minutes with my new best friend Neva the monster.


Nomada Studio

Every aspect Neva it’s breathtaking. It looks like a vivid watercolor illustration: Alba, the protagonist, has long, slender limbs, clouds of silver hair, and a flowing red dress that drapes gracefully behind her with every jump and fall. Neva is a furry and energetic young white wolf, and the two share a close bond that has been reinforced and tested many times in the demo.

The world Neva It feels a little more substantial compared to Gris, the game that put Nomada Studio on the map in 2018, but it’s still full of layers of magic. The landscapes beyond the 2D plane through which Alba and Neva flow have incredible depth – dense forests hiding secrets and mountain ranges rising above wide valleys, sharp peaks piercing the sky in the distance. The show features lush glades covered in vines and weeping branches, sunlight streaming through gaps in the leaves, as well as cave systems with dark, dense corridors. On time Neva takes a Frank Lloyd Wright approach to design, pushing players through claustrophobic forests that suddenly burst into fields of thick green grass, the camera pulling back to show just how small Alba and Neva really are in this setting.


Nomada Studio

Trees, leaves, rocks and roots make up the game’s side-scrolling playground, with sloping platforms and floating islands built mostly from stone. Touches of fantastical alien technology appear with increasing frequency as the show progresses, like hordes of complex black enemies with round white faces, mouths opening in silent screams.

Platforming Neva is intuitive. The game has minimal on-screen text, and instead direction comes from the environment, with soft highlights and sunken glows marking the right paths in a way that feels completely natural. I made my way through most areas of the demo, leaping to ledges on almost subconscious impulses, knowing I could trust the game’s subtle cues. There are areas of deep blackness that Alba must clear before Neva can progress, sometimes leaving the little monster behind for a moment, causing instant separation anxiety. Neva screams and shouts as she learns to navigate the world, and it’s sickening noises. I was aware of Nevada with every jump, making sure she would follow my path, reaching out to watch her full size leaps, petting her after each success and calling her name consistently.

Alba’s voice is like a fairy, and the way she says: “Neva? Neva. Nevaaa!” turned into an earworm I couldn’t shake. After coming home from Summer Game Fest and being reunited with my two little dogs, I was walking around the house asking, “Neva?” as if they were their names. It’s been a very messy time for them, but they’ve had a few extra treats, so it’s all good.

Battle Neva Alba’s sword feels intuitive as a platformer with simple inputs that deliver satisfying hits. Enemies, long-legged creatures that appear from dark puddles in the ground, jab at Alba with their barbed fingers and shoot deadly spikes at him, but they’re pretty easy to dispatch one-on-one. Alba is able to get incredibly close to each creature before taking damage, and this generous proximity makes fight scenes feel like a dance in constant motion and minimal pauses. I didn’t die until I got to the boss fight at the end of the demo, where Neva and I had to fight a giant creature, dodging its attacks by double jumping around it and slicing its legs and back. After three deaths I beat the boss and the stage felt like a fitting climax to everything I had learned so far.


Nomada Studio

I am sure that every preview Neva (including this one) will highlight how quickly and easily the game can make players cry, and I want to take a moment to acknowledge the magnitude of that achievement. The bond that Nomada Studio creates between Neva and Alba is incredibly strong, and that kind of emotional connection doesn’t just happen when you put an animal and a human in the same scene. Neva is a constant source of anxiety and joy: Bala must be protected at all costs, and she feels like a physical part of Alba’s existence, necessary for the hero’s survival. Neva builds on their shared trauma, and each following mechanic strengthens their partnership – protect, marry, repeat. Neva and Alba need each other, and their shared love resonates through every frame of the game.

guaranteed, Neva will make me cry

Neva should come out PC and PlayStation 5 this year was developed by Nomada Studio and published by Devolver Digital.

Find out all the news from Summer Game Fest 2024 here!

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