It’s not every day you get to play as a Deer, a Car, a lamppost, and a slice of pizza all within the space of five minutes, let alone within the same video game – but then again, not every video game is Everything, the latest release from developer David OReilly. Perhaps the most sensible and self-explanatory title that could have possibly been chosen; Everything allows you to explore the sheer wonders of life on Earth by, uhmm… well, letting you control everything within it.
For better or for worse, Everything is an experience unlike no other – one that closer resembles an arty, almost educational experience rather than that of an inherently fun video game. There’s interactivity and gameplay mechanics that co-exist alongside an end goal, but despite all of this, this is far removed from your standard video game. If Everything was aiming to be a unique, stand-out experience, it has undoubtedly succeeded in this ambition, but where the game is accomplished in its ability to make a statement, it struggles to fully engage the player as a truly compelling piece of entertainment. Lacking much in the way of satisfying gameplay, Everything falls victim to its own ambition and, despite its moderately successful attempts to impress, is far from the meaningful journey that it tries so hard to become.
With the freedom to travel around the universe and freely take control of its inhabitants, the core foundation of Everything is built upon discovery. Seeking out life on a global scale, the game allows for the ability to seamlessly transcend between smaller and larger inhabitants at will, moving around and exploring as you so please. This is only just the start of it, however, and over time you are drip-fed additional mechanics that work to add variety to the experience. Unlocking the ability to shrink & grow, become whatever you like, sing to other inhabitants, join others, and even dance – it’s a mixed bag of features. Not all of these enhance the experience far beyond the base gameplay, though, with many often feeling either entirely throwaway or just plain novel. No matter their worth, however, they at least add a much needed sense of progression to what is a very open-ended adventure.
Taking the player on an ever-changing journey through a variety of vastly different locations, each experienced from different levels and angles, the game successfully delivers on its promise of scale. Avoiding any sense of embarrassment, Everything features an astonishing amount of things to possess – fish, mammals, vehicles, buildings, foods, planets, minerals, and many, many more. It’s easy to be blown away by the technical feat of this game, especially when considering how quickly and easily switching between ‘things’ is executed. Experiencing a new world for the first time, or even just a new way of seeing it, instils a feeling of wonder and mystery, and it’s hard to discredit the game in its ability to intrigue the player and encourage exploring even further. That said, Everything’s bag of tricks only holds so much appeal, and once this initial thrill wears off, so too does the game’s ‘wow’ factor. Unfortunately, what’s then left behind is a rather hollow experience.
Everything is built upon simplicity. The art style, the animations, the gameplay offering – it’s all so undeniably basic. It’s often a misconception within game development that this is boring, but in reality these experiences can demonstrate entertainment at its most pure. In the case of Everything, however, aiming for something so straightforward goes the opposite way and proves fatal, resulting in an experience that can be hard to invest yourself within. Given the game’s huge potential and mind-blowing scale, it is such a shame to see a considerable absence of depth within the gameplay loop. Aside from appearance, there’s little significant difference between the inhabitants you control and their ability, and though it’s easy to be excited at the prospect of discovery and wanting to see everything the world has to offer, without this variety it can be hard to persist with these endeavours for too long. Once the bubble bursts, you realise that despite containing literally hundreds upon hundreds of things to control, each inhabitant provides little else other than another name to your discovery log. Unfortunately, once you’ve grown tired of the game’s impressive scale, the rest of the experience suffers.
Featuring two objectives, Everything isn’t the aimless adventure it might appear to be. Aside from seeking out all elements of life, a feat that only the determined would even dare to accomplish – seriously, there’s a ridiculous amount to find – there’s a central journey that lies at the heart of the game, too. While nothing particularly exciting, you are guided throughout the world as you steadily unlock the aforementioned extra abilities and use them to progress. Resulting in an ending that takes a trip into the bizarre and hits at a rather personal level, it’s not an overly effective whole, but having that guidance throughout offers something to cling to and an appreciated dose of guidance. Players will likely get a varying amount of mileage out of this feature, but even so, it’s still over fairly quickly, leaving you to your own devices once it’s over.
While continuing to explore maintains some of its charm, the gameplay eventually boils down to that of a mundane slog thereafter, particularly during long sessions of play. If you really want to pursue the overarching goal of finding everything the game has to offer, you truly require a tonne of patience and persistence. Thankfully, though, while discovering and controlling world elements does indeed form the basic gameplay, this isn’t the only side to Everything’s identity, and the game is able to somewhat redeem itself by offering more than just simplistic gameplay and novel features.
Encountering life on earth and understanding the elements that create it, Everything is perhaps best described as an interactive lecture in philosophy. The gameplay is married well with this subject matter, actively encouraging players to seek out the world’s inhabitants and engage with their thoughts, as well as periodically listening to your own. Some of these musings are insightful, others are mildly comical, but many also translate to nonsense – thought provoking they are not. On top of this, famed philosopher Alan Watts makes an interesting addition to this strand of the game’s DNA in the form of soundbites littered throughout the world. Taken from his lectures, these moments introduce more vivid elements of abstract thought and are in healthy supply if you are willing to stick around long enough to find them. While also significantly more enjoyable and fascinating than anything else presented in the game, they are also more likely to inspire the player far beyond the game’s own efforts. Dealt out as rewards for exploring the world, some players will doubtlessly find this content far from rewarding and not worth their efforts, and it’ll be hard to blame them. Due to the nature of the subject matter, it can be difficult to appreciate and feel engrossed within it all.
If it wasn’t already abundantly clear: Everything simply isn’t a game for everybody – the in-game action is vastly different from anything else and the whole product is designed around philosophy, after all. Boasting such a wealth of philosophical musings and placing them at the core, it’s impossible to separate this factor from the experience and, as a result, the game isn’t very appealing without a personal interest in the subject or an openness to delve in. Those with no desire to explore it will doubtlessly grow tired of this experience and will be quick to label it as nothing short of pretentious, especially when the gameplay itself feels incredibly limp and the game’s messages and teachings will struggle to make such an impact.
Everything is certainly unique, and as such it’s difficult to quantify the appeal of such a game – after all, there’s no real comparison to make to any pre-existing titles. It’s not hard to imagine why this game would be so divisive amongst its players, without a vested interest in philosophy it’s unlikely you could ever persist through many hours of playtime, but you might stick around long enough to make your time (and investment) worthwhile. At its very best, the game is a thoughtful, refreshing and, coupled alongside a soothing soundtrack, an utterly relaxing joyride. At its worst, it’s a repetitive journey sorely lacking in depth. Regardless of its considerable flaws, though, Everything is different, technically impressive, sometimes blissful, and most definitely memorable – so that at least counts for something.
Despite the stark contrasts in enjoyment throughout, Everything might just still be worth a shot.