Jun 25, 2017 Last Updated 12:20 PM, Jun 25, 2017
Published in Adventure
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Let’s get one thing out of the way: Everything isn’t just a game.

It’s an interactive, surrealist experience intertwined with profound philosophy. There are no goals other than experiencing its message through the environment, one-sided dialogue, and snippets of recordings from the philosopher Alan Watts.

Everything explores the interconnected cosmos. You can wander through the endless expanse of space or delve into the mysteries of the microscopic universe. Multiple dimensions unfold before you, flooding your senses in a stunning waltz of darkness and light.

You are more than a traveler, though. Throughout your adventure, you gain the ability to shape almost every aspect of the environment. Even as your powers blossom to near omnipotence, one thing remains unchanged: the universe doesn’t need you. It tumbles and spins in its inexorable dance, heedless of your observation or interference. Perhaps this summarizes the overall message. You are everything, and yet, nothing, and both these states of being (and non-being) should give you joy.

What’s the Deal With The Rolling Animals?

You enter Everything as a sole spark of light in the darkness, but soon move on to inhabit an animal. As in most games, you move with the standard WASD keys, but things are different here. The creature you’re controlling isn’t walking, it’s rolling around, end-to-end, like a child’s figurine tossed on the ground. This isn’t a bug; all the creatures move in the same stiff, unnatural gait.

Some might speculate that the lack of a walking animation was due to budgetary limitations, but I propose an alternative view: the absurdity isn’t a concession, it’s intentional. Understanding begins with letting go of preconceived notions, and the delightfully ridiculous movement of the animals helps break through that initial barrier. Because you don’t know what to expect next, you’re open to new possibilities.

“Explore.”

Everything unfurls slowly. The control system is progressive: as you use your skills, new abilities unlock. In the beginning, you roll around and listen to the flora and fauna in the area. In this world, sentience is not limited to creatures with a central nervous system — but not everyone has something to say. You have to look for little cloud icons and get close enough to the thinker to engage with them. Accessing these ‘thoughts’ often rewards you with random messages like “Thank you. I’m sorry. I love you.” Others are more philosophical.

My first reaction was “What is this? What am I doing?” Everything’s creator, David O’Reilly, must have anticipated this response, because it was soon answered by a random rock. “Explore,” the rock declared, “you can’t make a mistake.” Other interactive symbols include hexagons, which unlock new abilities, and double circles, which play excerpts of speeches given by Alan Watts.

There are no clear objectives, but there are achievements.  The world is procedurally generated, but the number of discoverable objects is finite. As you bond with new creatures, its name and category appear on the screen, along with the percentage of discoveries obtained in that category.

The hilarity of the animal movements serves more than a philosophical purpose. It’s entertaining to flop a herd of enormous elephants across the landscape, trumpeting triumphantly along the way.  Once this wears thin, you can entice your creatures to dance. When your herd is dancing, you can spawn baby versions of whatever is under your control and then free those babies to peruse the world on their own.

When I started, I bonded with creature after creature, with nothing more than a driving sense that the next one would lead to unlocking some new section of the world. I only realized I could transition beyond the current plane of existence by accident. (The tutorial explains this, but somehow I missed that tidbit.)  Once I understood what I could do, I was excited by the possibilities.

Everything invites you to push boundaries. How many babies can you spawn? What happens if you gather up all the rocks and place them on one corner of the map? Can you explore the landmasses that you create? The beauty is that you can try anything.

An Auditory Adventure

Every biome in Everything is a unique musical experience. The compositions blend with the spirit of its surroundings, brilliantly enhancing the overall sense of belonging. Beyond the fleshy planes, you become an entity of light and sound, emitting sparkling tones and vibrations as you move. Woven through it all are Watts’ speeches. Far from being intrusive, the recordings are a delight. Watts  is a skilled orator who speaks with a deliciously cultured, sonorous voice that is pleasing to listen to, all on its own.

The rock was serious when it said I couldn’t make a mistake. Although Everything does allow you to create objects, you can’t add so many that it causes your system to slow or crash. Instead, it subtly removes the ability to create more, so you never add more than you’re allowed. If application notifications interfere with dialogue subtitles, the messages are held until the dialogue ends, and then fade on screen so nothing is interrupted and nothing is missed. The result is an immersive environment where the controls never overwhelm the experience.

8

The Verdict

Everything is an extraordinary journey. It’s Salvador Dali meets Neil deGrasse Tyson meets Eastern Mysticism. It’s art and spirituality brought to life in a medium that transcends the limitations of books and paints. This isn’t the game you want if you’re looking for casual entertainment with which to unwind at the end of a long day. Yet, even though Everything challenges your understanding of self and the universe, it never sacrifices the simple joy of fun.

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Phoebe Knight

Phoebe Knight is a freelance writer and novelist. She cut her baby teeth on the original King’s Quest, and has loved gaming ever since. Phoebe’s favorite games are usually weird ones with quirky storylines, but she has also logged an embarrassing volume of hours in sweeping open-world fantasy games like Skyrim and Witcher 3.

Website: www.phoebeknight.com

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