Neverball is a simple free game that puts you in the driver’s seat of a large sphere, with the aim of getting it into a bull’s-eye target. But there’s a twist — instead of having control of your sphere, you actually control the environment.
By tilting the world one way or another, you’ll roll your Neverball around, collecting coins and hitting targets to progress, and learning advanced techniques for things like jumping and banking.
Remember the old labyrinth games where you had a tiny ball bearing in a plastic maze and you had to tilt the maze this way and that in your hands to get the ball to roll through the maze to some ambiguous target? Well, like all good things from play time in our childhoods,
that has been digitized as well. Loosely based on the underground hit “Monkey Ball,” Neverball brings you that same type of game, but on your PC and in the form of freeware. Neverball is a very small program to install, and takes up hardly any resources while it is running so it’s an excellent choice for budget gamers both because of the zero price tag and the low gpu requirements. I tested it on a midrange office laptop and had no trouble getting a solid 30-40 frames per second in the highest resolutions.
The aim of Neverball is simple, and so are the controls, but what you can do with them is far more impressive. As you progress through the seemingly endless list of levels, you’ll eventually begin to learn advanced techniques like jumping the sphere over small areas or more sophisticated banking methods to gain greater speed. Each level will present a unique challenge in the form of obstacles you will need to roll over, around, through, and under to reach your eventual goal. While rolling around, you’ll pick up coins by touching them and you can use those coins later in the game to unlock new levels and other goodies.
There is also a level editor available for Neverball, which will let you design and compile your own levels but it can be an involved and time consuming process so don’t plan on making a new world overnight. For those with the dedication and desire, however, the editor and the community of creators will offer even more in the way of longevity enjoying this game. I thought, at first, that it might be nice to see a multiplayer mode, but the developers have pointed out that they haven’t been able to work out how to do so, with two people controlling the floor it would be stalemate or chaos every time. One wonders if they have seen Futurama’s solution to this issue (one player controls the x axis and the other the y axis) but even with this small disappointment, Neverball is a superb freeware game and will offer you many wasted hours of your life rolling that thing around.
Packaged as a bonus with Neverball is Neverputt. This is a simple mini golf game based on the code for Neverball. Instead of tilting the floor, however, you’re in direct control of an invisible putter, controlled by the mouse. This bonus game seemed less than exciting at first but after playing two holes I was hooked. Neverball and Neverputt do not allow you any real camera control, so the added challenge of being forced into one view makes the game more exciting than it should be. This decision was a bit gutsy on the part of the developers, as it could have turned out to just be a frustration, but it is implemented well enough that it adds to the challenge and enjoyment, rather than being a hindrance. What would a mini golf game be without multiplayer? Not much. Fortunately, Neverputt has a hot seat multiplayer option so you can play with up to three friends. Hot seat multiplayer games are a great way to interact with those real life friends that come over to take your last soda from the fridge without asking.
Casual games like Neverball are becoming all the rage among PC gamers, and are quickly gaining a major following in the world of Freeware in general. Personally, I feel that games like this can really have an impact in making sure that, rather than dying, PC gaming evolves and becomes something new and better than it was before. I have said again and again that you don’t have to spend a dime to have a good time playing a game on your PC and Neverball along with Neverputt are perfect examples of why I am right. So, I recommend you try Neverball, but I also recommend you bring some Dramamine. I haven’t been this dizzy from a game since Mirror’s Edge.
Until next time, my friends!
Compatibility: Linux, Win2K/XP, FreeBSD, and Mac OSX. Hardware accelerated OpenGL is required. A 500MHz processor is recommended.
Get Neverball and Neverputt here.