Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield Review
The joys of funk is a place that I’ve recently been inducted into, thanks to the musical stylings of Anderson .Paak, the multi-instrumentalist who first made me weep from his sheer virtuosity on the drums. His music is lavishly instrumented waves of blues and grooves, the percussive warmth of his extremely crisp beats channelling a soulful, sunstruck vibe that flows throughout his harmonies. These funk tunes also undulate through bars of intricate rhythm and silky hooks, which uplift and move his melodies along.
I’m waxing lyrical about music, but Ariel_Knight’s Never Yield, an endless runner where you sprint, glide and leap across the backstreets and rooftops of Detroit, feels just like it was moulded from within the same milieu. Capturing the zeitgeist of funk music through its atmosphere and play, Never Yield resounds with a flow that’s both slick and sublime. You’ll be traipsing through the various stages, towards the right side of the screen, as an acrobatic teen named Wally.
Right from the start, you’re already running from a flurry of droids and explosives hurled at you, and leapfrogging across obstructions such as debris, vehicles, and even a squadron of police officers. And like most endless runners, the controls for avoiding these sequences of obstacles are deceptively straightforward: high jumps, long jumps, sliding and dashing. If you spot a tall rubble, you’ll have to high jump over it. If there’s a glass door in your way, the only way through is to dash across it. These movements are designed to be instinctive, with flashes of colour corresponding to these controls showing up right as you inch close to an obstacle, offering a subtle visual cue as to what manoeuvre you should be executing to best avoid them.
While failure may be a common occurrence at the start—you’ll find yourself tripping over rubble or meeting your demise beneath the deadly whirr of a spinning blade—this isn’t much of a challenging endeavour at first. After all, Never Yield feels like it’s made to be forgiving, and it’s a consideration that I deeply appreciate. Your movement will be slowed down near dangerous spots, giving you ample time to decide what moves to dish out. After some time, however, you’ll simply be moving and leaping without much deliberation—or in other words, to go with the flow. That said, you can always up the ante and dial up the difficulty to “hardcore”, where you’ll receive less of these aids.
This is an uncomplicated setup. On its own, all these athletics, no matter how polished and stylishly they are pulled off, can quickly grow stale. What elevates this experience, however, is the game’s deliciously funk soundtrack—with funk being a genre that evolved from Black R&B, soul and jazz, and which predominantly stems from African American musicians. It is a deliberate choice by developer Neil Jones—the titular Aerial_Knight—who wanted to centre Black voices in the game. “The music is really the core of a lot of the games I design. I think for Black people, music is such a large part of our culture that it’s kind of my starting point sometimes,” shared Jones in an interview with Uppercut Crit.
Which is why the music accentuates every movement you make in Never Yield, its funk soundtrack holding a deeply intrinsic connection to how the rest of the game plays out. Even as you’re running towards freedom, leaping across colliding vehicles and sliding underneath collapsed construction beams, the cohesive energy between the soundtrack and your actions is electric, turning Wally’s journey into exhilarating displays of meta-human flight. In later stages, it even takes you to unexpected directions—but I shall not spoil the surprise for you. As my fingers tap the control keys, as if mimicking the movements of a musical virtuoso myself, I can’t help but bop to the music.
There is a semblance of a tale behind the goings-on of Never Yield, but it’s one that’s nebulous and difficult to grasp if you’re not paying close attention. Yet in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter; this ambiguity hardly ever holds back or reins in its dynamism. Instead, Never Yield’s strength is in replicating the rhythmic flow of funk. It’s one that pulsates intently throughout the experience, and is a beautifully composed choreography of movement and music. In perfect harmony are its liberating act of endless running and athletics and the reverberating funk soundtrack—which makes Never Yield an unmistakable display of Black empowerment.