Did you ever hear about the boy who got Everything?
When Everything first landed on my lap I didn’t know exactly what to expect. I came in very much sceptical, and actually felt the game was leaning too close to pretentiousness – to be brutally honest. I have played games that had an artistic flair to them before but Everything was different.
Selfie: Sisters of the Amniotic Lens, The Magic Circle, Dream, and Unfinished – An Artist’s Lament are all good examples of art in video games with ranges from beautiful to the bizarre.
These titles and many more prove that games are more than just rendered clouds, shooters, and giant anime swords. Keep in mind though, there is a fine line that these games ride between art and being an actual game. Art can be subjective and will speak differently to many people but a game is structured and has purpose. Combining the two sounds mind boggling to me.
Now all this may sound like a big “doh” to you but I felt it important to mention.
Why? Everything is a game that is extremely difficult to be objective about, which is my job as a reviewer. One of the primary themes of Everything is philosophy, specifically Alan Watts’ focus on Eastern teaching/religions. On the other hand Everything is a game about playing as a cigarette bud or a cloud. Perhaps a massive grove of trees, a medieval castle party, the list goes on and on. Essentially, Everything is about delivering a message, and the philosophy of that message.
Keeping my personal feelings aside is difficult in this case because inherently the message is going to be received uniquely to everyone.
The reason the game’s focus is based on being any kind of object, place or thing is because of Alan Watt’s narration. He breaks it down into fundamentals of our perception, how we view life and death, and how everything is connected. From the big bang all the way up to you as a person. Which is great and I want to underline that I had absolutely no problem with the narration or that point of view. Philosophy is a very important aspect in society and everybody should be free to express any thought or idea as long it doesn’t harm others.
The problem for me lies in finding that balance between a game and a message. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground when it comes to Everything. Either you are laughing and quite frankly doing stupid stuff like making a snake line of fences or you are literally being told the message you are supposed to embrace through the course of the game.
Imagine a State of the Nation address on national TV being given by Monty Python.
Sounds like a great time and hilarious but it’s supposed to be a serious affair. This is how I feel about Everything’s tone, it’s just all over the place. Alan Watts is an incredibly charismatic speaker and you can tell that as you collect audio logs while flipping end over end as a horse, or a duck, as to move. One thing though that Mr. Watt’s audio logs did remind me of, was something I first heard from a comedian; “If you want to start a religion, convince people they are confused and lost, and that you know the way and they should follow.”
As I listened to the audio logs, I couldn’t help but notice that he tends to speak in circles. Waxing philosophical for the sake of waxing philosophical –so to say. It sounds incredibly insightful, but to what end? The man could give Yoda a run for his money is all I’m saying.
So what about the game? Enough about my personal views!
Everything doesn’t really have a genre but if I had to pick one its basically a giant collect-a-thon. There is a MASSIVE catalogue of things you can become and that by far is Everything’s greatest achievement. When the game is called Everything I didn’t really think it could back up such a claim but it comes dang close.
If you ever played Spore, imagine the different stages of evolution but in rapid succession. You start off as an animal and can choose to move up or down. From an animal you could become grass, then a bug, then a wood particle, then silicon. On the flip side obviously you could become a whole galaxy eventually. It’s a rather neat experience that is done seamlessly. In case your wondering yes it is all a giant circle as you eventually become spectrum’s of existence, three dimensional and eventually one dimensional. Leading back the other way around.
There isn’t an overall goal of the game. As a matter fact you don’t know it but you are playing the tutorial for the first several hours. Then after that you access a universe of nonsense, which is ironic given what you were doing up to that point. You are given this screenshot — congratulations, now go do more of the same.
More of the same consists of collecting thoughts from inanimate or animate objects. Collecting more audio logs and filling out your catalogue of things that you have become. Now you might be getting the impression I didn’t have the most positive opinion about Everything. You would be wrong, I had plenty of fun while playing this game. There are some really hilarious moments and neat things about the gameplay. The passage of time was a nice subtle touch. The game is constantly evolving and as time progresses the land you are exploring may drastically change.
The way this works is dependent on your perception of what you are. Do the clouds count the days? Does a tree care if it’s the weekend? In this case the bigger you are the faster time goes by. It’s a neat aspect that eventually leads to full cities forming and the birth of technology. Other minor aspects take up your time such as dancing, which can lead to the birth of a tiny version of what you are. Yes, even buildings, garbage, and a tennis racket can make more of itself. Why? I have no idea.
The universe of Everything is strange, charming, and chaotic.
The first time I descended into one of the cities as a rusty can. I was left in awe at how it all looked. Suddenly everything was in order and was completely the opposite of the usual wild hills and forests I had been flipping through. I became a car and drove around a bit and admired the sights. Then I became building and everything went to hell. Suddenly I had a posse of buildings following me looking to get some revenge on Godzilla. The beauty and order was gone and I was left with this ridiculous sight. Was it by my own hand? Yes but what else am I supposed to do?
In the same way that I felt the message and gameplay have no middle ground. The graphics and aesthetics are the same. You go from being a beautiful planet shining brightly with a nearby star; to a cheap looking plastic frog that hops around like a Lego game. The ambitious nature of Everything obviously meant some aspects have to be sacrificed but I can’t help but feel that this was a jarring experience and felt awkward. No matter how many times I was amazed by the idea of existence folding in on itself, a horse flipping end over end is hilarious.
Every time Everything had me in its grasp something silly would bring me back. This made the message that was being delivered by the narrative seem nullified.
Everything in the end feels a giant toybox. I just wish I had someone to play with.
There are other minor things that add some enjoyment to the gameplay. The ability to become anything you were before no matter where you are. Suddenly I was a house floating on the sun, a speaker in three dimensional space. Herding objects somewhat like yourself never got tiresome and became a quick way of filling out your catalogue.The game also can be just left alone and it will play itself. You read correctly, Everything doesn’t even need you to play, it plays itself.
You can grow, shrink, and even cause disasters if you manage to cause a framerate issue. The engine itself is made very well. I never experienced a single crash, hiccup, or any sign of issue. Everything does feature full controller support but keyboard/mouse are just fine as well. There are Steam cards/achievements for you completionists out there.
One thing is for sure, there is plenty of replay value here to be had. I completed the game/tutorial in about five hours total. There was still plenty left to fill out my catalogue with and plenty of little secrets to discover. This is one game where I wouldn’t mind achievement hunting.
One area that does hit the mark spot on is the music.
The OST does a remarkable job of building the tension and wrapping you up in the themes of Everything. Not once did I ever get tired of the orchestral soundtrack. You could listen to this for hours and let your mind wander the universe. The sound effects, for the most part, are well done. The cow goes moo and the duck goes quack. Then there are some things that have vague concepts, like what noise does a nebula make or a cigarette? These are all addressed and it’s exactly what you think.
If you enjoy the soundtrack you can purchase that with the main game as well.
Another area this game obviously blows the lid off is innovation. You will be hard pressed to find a game like this anywhere or ever again chances are. Everything is strange but no one can question that this is a unique experience. One that if you enjoy philosophy, is definitely worth your time and attention.
Of course you could just blow me off and say “You just don’t get it” and that would be fine.
It’s very possible that this game will speak to you on a whole other level that it never got to me with. There is nothing wrong with that. I had fun playing this game and have zero issues recommending this game but felt the silliness held it back at times. Alan Watt’s is an incredibly insightful man but I felt listening to his message cohesively over video or otherwise would be best for those really interested in the philosophy aspect.
At the end of the day how can you put a price on Everything? Well the developer did and it costs $14.99/£10.99 which for such a unique, weird, and fun experience is worth it. You may find yourself in Nirvana or at the least get a chuckle at upside down monkeys. It’s all on you.