What Never Was is a short narrative driven game that takes place in just a single room. I’m not only a gamer, but also an adult with a family and a job, so I can appreciate short games to satiate that hunger to complete a game every once in a while. I was happy to come across Marie’s Room some time ago and What Never Was shares a lot of similarities with it.
In What Never Was, you play as Sarah. Her grandfather recently came to pass and she was tasked with clearing out his attic. She heard all his tall tales while growing up but while browsing through his belongings, discovers various clues that there may be some truth to them.
While digging through his stuff, she encounters pages from his journal that talk about another world. There are various objects for you to interact with, but most are just some explanations and opinions. The voice actress does a decent job at selling her bewilderment.
Note: I joke about the tiny subs, but apparently this is just scaled badly and caused by my screen’s resolution. In windowed mode or smaller resolution it was fine.
I’m ok with a game taking place in a single room, I just wish there were more items in the attic to have a meaningful interaction with. It’s mostly filled with stacks of books and files for which Sarah doesn’t have any real insights to share. The only real attachments she has are with a picture of herself on his desk and a box with her console and stuffed piggy.
Luckily there is also some puzzle solving involved. There are three small puzzles that Sarah must overcome to find out more about her grandfather’s mysterious discoveries. First you have a simple “press the button in the right order” puzzle, that I solved on the second attempt (because most of these follow the same pattern in all videogames). This unlocks the second part of your medallion which now lets you see into the other world. You’ll need it for the second puzzle which has you entering the correct letters to open a lockbox.
And lastly, you’ll need to solve a puzzle with the hands of a clock, for which you’ll have to have found all the journal pages. This entire experience doesn’t last that long if you’ve played similar games though. It took me about 20 minutes to see the credits roll and I was also a bit surprised with how sudden this was, causing me to ask the dev if it was really the ending or if I had to replay it to get a different one.*
*EDIT: The developer has used my feedback and added a few extra lines to the ending. It made a HUUUUGE difference to me and even bumped up the score. It feels like a complete experience now. Well, at least a teaser for things to come!
Many explanations on the game’s length and decisions made for it can be found on the site: “This is a passion project, one which I have been tending for quite some time. What initially started as a 3D-environment exercise has now slowly blossomed into this: The first level of a game which (in all likelyhood) will never come to be.”
I actually think the premise is rather intriguing. I wish I got to see what happens to Sarah and what mysteries were yet to be uncovered. If this ever becomes a full game instead of what feels like a proof of concept, I’ll be happy to explore more!
What Never Was is an interesting storytelling game. It’s a suitable piece of entertainment if you have half an hour to kill but leaves you wanting more. The single room exploration could have benefited greatly from more objects to interact with but much can be forgiven for the low, low cost of $0. Just grab the free game and join me in looking forward to it becoming a more complete experience at some point in time.
Don’t have a computer yourself to test it on? (it’s free after all!) I still got you covered, here’s my complete playthrough: