Apple Arcade's new Neversong game was inspired by developer's near-death experience

"The goal of the game is to make sure you know that you are valuable and loved," studio founder Zhenghua Yang said.

Shelby Brown Editor II
Shelby Brown (she/her/hers) is an editor for CNET's services team. She covers tips and tricks for apps, operating systems and devices, as well as mobile gaming and Apple Arcade news. Shelby also oversees Tech Tips coverage. Before joining CNET, she covered app news for Download.com and served as a freelancer for Louisville.com.
  • She received the Renau Writing Scholarship in 2016 from the University of Louisville's communication department.
Shelby Brown
3 min read

Apple Arcade's newest game is Neversong. 


This story is part of CNET's coverage of Apple Arcade, including exclusive first looks we got at some of the service's high-profile new games.

On Friday, Apple Arcade added one of its most intense games yet to its growing catalog of over 100 titles. Neversong, formerly titled Once Upon a Coma, is an indie game from Serenity Forge. In the side-scroller style puzzle game, you play as young Peet, who, upon waking from a coma, finds himself in a nightmare.

With his girlfriend nowhere to be found, Peet must navigate the frightening halls of Blackfork Asylum and try to understand the sometimes-violent behavior of adults. The more he explores, the more the secrets of his past unfurl. Neversong has six levels to explore, including Red Wind Field and Blackfork Asylum, which are all packed with bosses to defeat. Armed with a baseball bat, his childhood friends and his pet bird, Peet will set out to learn the truth about his coma.

"Neversong is all about the death of youthfulness, but more importantly, the redemption one can achieve after the loss of that innocence. It's about discovering who you really are, deep down -- who you were when you were a kid," Zhenghua Yang, founder of Serenity Forge and the game's executive producer, told CNET. 


For Yang, Neversong is more than just a game: It's based on a true story. While in college, an illness made his platelet count drop drastically, and doctors all but gave up hope. But Yang miraculously survived. While he recovered for two years in a hospital, he battled loneliness -- losing contact with his friends and being away from college. To cope, he turned to video games like League of Legends and Final Fantasy. There, Yang found a whole new support community online. 

The friends Yang made through video games while recovering are still in his life today. He still chats with many of them on Facebook and when playing video games, and a few attended his wedding two years ago. 

After he healed and went back to his normal life, he couldn't stop thinking about the role video games had played in his recovery. Yang said he believes video games are no longer just distractions for kids, but can inspire and teach practical skills to people of all ages. 

"They can advance science. They can heal trauma. They can solve conflicts," he said.  


Similar to Yang's isolation in the hospital, the world experiencing loneliness while practicing social distancing and lockdown orders during the coronavirus pandemic. As they did for Yang, video games have given people a way to connect without compromising their health. Animal Crossing: New Horizons has become one of the preferred ways for friends to hang out besides video chats.

"Whether you're flanking an enemy's defenses, or knocking over bricks with birds, video games present to you challenges for you to overcome," Yang said. "The fundamental core of what makes a civilization is that very aspect of overcoming challenges together as a team. In a world where we can no longer work together in person, video games are able to carry that torch forward to continue bringing hope for our future."

Apple/ Screenshot by Shelby Brown/ CNET

Yang said the team wanted to keep Neversong players on their toes -- with surprising decisions and fresh puzzle-solving amidst the haunting, emotional story. 

"The game subtly deals with some dark themes, and we want to communicate the sneaky nature of depression, but the tremendous value in remembering who we are despite our circumstances or present mental state. The goal of the game is to make sure you know that you are valuable and loved," Yang said.

With Apple Arcade's release in September, Apple firmly staked its claim in the mobile gaming world. The subscription gaming service costs $4.99 a month (£4.99, AU$7.99) and lets you play 100 new and exclusive games across the iPhone, iPad, Mac, iPod Touch and Apple TV.

Apple Arcade: 50 of our favorite games so far

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