Every once in a while there comes a game that tries to be something completely different. I appreciate the efforts to change the already established genre tropes to try and give us a fresh and possibly unique experience. These kinds of games are often a big risk for the developers if not backed by big studios with AAA budgets and that is often not the case. David OReilly is one such developer that tried to deliver such an experience with his previous game called Mountain and now again with Everything. So? Did he succeed in doing that? Let's break down Everything to find out.
Everything is available for purchase at Steam for 14,99€.
The story in Everything is structured differently than in most games. You can't approach it in a conventional way and it's hard to talk about it like in a story where you have a beginning, middle and an end. What you do in the game is not tied to the story and there is no progression to speak of. Instead, the game throws its philosophy at you at its own pace and in an order that isn't exactly cohesive. Most of what you would call a story consists of narration from the recordings of the late British philosopher Alan Watts who was known as a popularizer of Easter culture and philosophy in the West. As you jump from a single cell to entire galaxies, you may come across recordings talking about perception, life, nature, physics, biology, and other topics. I found the recordings extremely interesting and engaging, but I didn't exactly need to purchase this game to hear them.
It's different to when you hear a great song in another game as it usually complements the action and the gameplay but here, what you hear, see or do is often completely disconnected from one another. There are additional written thoughts in the game which are taken from many philosophers and scattered throughout the game for you to find if you chose to do so. The game certainly makes you think about real world subjects and can weigh heavy on you with the issues it tackles, but offers you no conventional and wholly original narrative and those looking for such an experience should most certainly look elsewhere.
Gameplay-wise, Everything is a game of many levels. It's like an interactive scale model of everything in the universe. Verticality is certainly the name of the game, as you can move down and be an individual atom or move up and become an entire galaxy or a cluster. There comes a point where it loops, going back to the game's philosophy of everything being everything and how galaxies are just a bunch of atoms which is a nice touch.
I personally began the game as a horse and the game introduced me to the basic controls which consist of moving through the world, looking for narrative bits of information and jumping to higher or lower levels of existence and that is basically it. You will be disappointed that there isn't much to being anything in this game and what will most certainly make you laugh right off the bat is how most of the four-legged creatures in the game are not properly animated. They simply roll across the world. Sure, it would be a gargantuan task to animate everything but this level of basic is pretty laughable. I had most fun being a bird or inanimate objects which behave as you probably imagine they would if they could.
So all in all, animals roll, trees sprout from the ground, islands glide across the surface, planets jitter a lot, galaxies fly, particles and atoms tumble around. You can make vaguely defined noises to other members of your controlled species or similar types of objects to group them if you fancy rolling around in a group. The game certainly sells the feeling of insignificance of everything in the universe by making controlling it feel just as insignificant. I can descend into a philosophical debate whether Everything is deeper than deep and judge it by that, but I'm judging it as a game. This isn't one of those interactive flash animations or a web browser based experience. It's a 15€ simulation game sold on Steam.
See where in most games when you take away the cutscenes, strip them of music and some other segments – you still have a game, that you play. You still have segments that could probably make you have fun, cause that's what games are about. Being philosophically empowered and learning is a secondary benefit you get from most games, and educational games of this caliber are left in the past together with Mario is Missing for good reason. They just aren't fun to play.
Visuals and audio
The game adopts a simple, almost cartoony graphical presentation that fits the general tone. There are minimal differences between controllable models of the same type but there is an insane amount of different types of objects to explore and control.
The game can really look beautiful sometimes with most objects producing appropriate effects. Such as planets rotating and generating clouds and the night sky spinning on the horizon while the sun is still setting. The narration coupled with the minimal and relaxing soundtrack and the sometimes amazing views can really offer you moments of peace and tranquility rarely seen in games today.
Everything is a mixed bag. It is certainly a unique experience. But I didn't find it worthy of my time. The mechanic that will probably draw in most players gets old really quick and the elements that will make you want to stay are easily found on the internet, probably even for free. It's a good game to play for a bit and relax or even show your family as the concept of being able to be everything is novel, but even they will ask you: "And that's it?" after just a few minutes of gameplay. Even though the philosophical concepts it adopts are deep, the game itself is shallow, with the philosophy only masking the bare bones of a game that is here.
|+ The narration||– Shallow and boring gameplay|
|+ Some nice graphics and effects||– Gets old quick|
|+ The soundtrack|