Newfound Courage (2019)
Developer: Curtis Champion
A game I was hoping to feature during Pride Month, Newfound Courage is a small Australian indie that has received widespread attention for its positive gay representation. I was intrigued not only by its seemingly romantic story but also by the beautiful cover art shown above. Newfound Courage is a puzzle adventure game about a boy in a strange new world, struggling with his sexuality while uncovering a town's dark secrets.
You play as Alex, a young boy with a troubled childhood, having found himself in a new and unfamiliar world. A short prologue tells you the story of him and his family - parents who rejected him completely for his sexuality and a sister who fought to protect him from harm. Alex finds a home with Nora, a woman who's lost her son, and she treats him as if he is her own son as well. Through Nora, Alex meets Jake, a friendly boy about his age who shows him around town and helps him get a job at the library. At the library, Alex discovers the lore of the strange creatures that inhabit this world. More than that, you discover the dark past of the citizens and their tragedies and grievances with one another.
Unfortunately, Newfound Courage didn't meet all the expectations I had about its story and characters. Primarily, the writing felt messy, clearly not proofread by anyone. I know this sounds nit-picky and grammar isn't something that should be so important, but constantly running into those errors takes you out of the experience and forces you re-read to understand what was truly meant. Also, often the childish comebacks and snippy responses the adult characters gave each other didn't feel so believable. Despite the fact that there was plenty of dialogue, I didn't fully understand what certain aspects of the world's lore and all the other "worlds". Maybe it's just me, but the calling of the different locations "otherwhere", "elsewhere", "deathworld", and such got me very mixed up and confused about which place was which and who was from where. It seems like a lot of made-up words with minimal explanation of their relations to the story and characters.
I read reviews of this game talking about how emotional and riveting Newfound Courage was for them, and I was so sure it would be for me as well. Despite a heartfelt ending and getting to see all the characters' stories play out, I didn't really feel connected enough to those characters to be emotionally moved by it. I do feel a little misled by the trailer and summary. Yes, this probably is just because I personally wanted a different ending than what happened, but I also wanted to see the romance play a bigger part, as it was what drew me in.
The music was well-done for most of Newfound Courage, but the ending song was especially beautiful and evocative, a perfect way to conclude the story. It's a short soundtrack, but I recommend checking it out Bandcamp here, especially the last track. I'm also very happy with the art style, especially in the environments. There's parts of this game where you can just stand next to a waterfall and take in the excellent pixel art and animation used. There was great detail put into every location and made you want to keep exploring.
Newfound Courage did an excellent job of showing a realistic protagonist with a complex personality having a difficult time not only coming to terms with his sexuality but also finding his home. I'm looking forward to more games incorporating not only underrepresented characters in terms of their sexuality, but more romance stories in games in general. Despite the sci-fi and fanastical aspects of this game, what really mattered was the relationships within the characters and their history, so I really enjoyed uncovering more about that. What I took away from most is how important it is to have a home and family, whether that's the family you were born into or not - it should be a family who supports you and takes you for who you are.
I really wanted to fall in love with Newfound Courage, but it fell short for me due to its writing. However, the puzzles are fun, the story is constantly surprising and strange, and the art and music are bright and fitting. I found the protagonist's story emotional and realistic. I still recommend it for its perspective not often found in games, it's a short adventure in a colorful world full of strange secrets.
Newfound Courage is available for PC.
Played on: PC
Last Played: 7/7/2019
Playtime: 3 hrs