Tethered

HIGH The minigames are great.

LOW The controls on the Joy-Cons.

WTF That jump detection.


A co-op game that is meant to have two players work in unison generally gravitates around one of two things – incredibly tight controls, or level design that is forgiving to players of unequal skill. The best examples have both. The worst case is Never Breakup.

The basic conceit is that a player (and a partner, if desired) control two spherical creatures – fish, gerbils, cats, etc. – that are attached by a tether with bungee cord qualities, and it’s down to them to navigate levels filled with things like platforms, pressure-pad-activated doors, disappearing panels, evil robots and rolling spike traps. This is done by jumping in unison, dragging boxes together and rooting one sphere to a spot and using the other to dangle from a ledge to collect items, swallowing a teammate to use them as firepower, and so forth.

In addition to the challenges that must be overcome, there are coins to collect and side objectives on each level. Coins go towards for new skins for the spheres, and the side objectives allow for unlocking a group of minigames that can be played with 2-4 players.

Never Breakup doesn’t appear to have a plot of any kind, and is merely about navigating from one end of the level to the next. That suited me fine, because a game purely about tight, intuitive gameplay that jumps from one level to the next can be a real treat. However, this was not the case.

My first problem with Never Breakup is that the multiplayer controls don’t feel like a good fit on Joy Cons when two players are on the same Switch. The reason is that the shoulder buttons on the controls have to be held down to ‘root’ a creature to the ground and then a face button must be pressed to retract the tether. Because of how small the Joy Cons are, this can lead to RSI-inducing actions, especially when doing platform sections where one player will frequently fall and need to be retrieved.

The controls are also poor not only in feel, but in practice — controlling a character is fussy at best, and murder-inducing at worst. The number of times I landed a good jump and then the character continued to roll off a ledge resulted in me stepping away from the game for extended periods of time.

Never Breakup simply asks for too much precision when the controls are not up to the task, both physically and in-game. One egregious example happens in the third world where it required dragging a box across three platforms, placing it on a spike trap so that it gets raised, swallowing one of the team and then jumping off the box at its peak to land on another platform. I tried this no less than 30 times and it consistently felt like the controls were failing me.

This situation is made even worse by a checkpointing system that can force the player to do multiple difficult sections repeatedly. In a game that ostensibly feels aimed at a younger audience, this system feels like punishment rather than encouragement.

Never Breakup is a good idea wrapped in a bright, colorful package that is ultimately let down almost completely by the controls and the device it’s on.

Rating: 4 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by ISVR and published by indienova. It is currently available on PC and Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 1 hour of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed5 hours of play were spent in multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E. Aside from the controls this game is perfectly suitable for young kids as it doesn’t contain any kind of graphic violence.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game is fully accessible without sound. Text size and color cannot be altered.

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. The Y axis cannot be altered, but this does not impact the game.

AJ Small

AJ Small

AJ Small is a games industry veteran starting in QA back in 2004. He started his gaming on the BBC Microcomputer and switched to being a devout SEGA fan from then on. He currently walks the earth in search of the tastiest/seediest drinking holes as part of his attempt to tell every single person on the planet that Speedball 2 and The Chaos Engine are the greatest games ever made.

He can be found on twitter, where he welcomes screenshots of Dreamcast games and talk about Mindjack, just don’t mention that one time he was in Canada.
AJ Small

Latest posts by AJ Small (see all)

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments