Welcome, get yourself comfortable! Warm drink? Perhaps even a beer, depending on when you choose to read this. Now, how would you like to give over your humanity in exchange for immortality?
This and other deep, thought-provoking questions can be found in a new title from Foreign Gnomes; Everhood, or to give it it’s full title “Everhood: An Ineffable Tale of the Inexpressible Divine Moments of Truth.” The game describes itself as an unconventional adventure RPG, but the bigger question is: can you fend for yourself?
I can’t let you continue, unless you can fend for yourself…
The game sets you off as “Red”, the Pinocchio-like protagonist of our story. Although, a slightly ‘armless one (no, that’s not a typo,) as you quickly realise your appendage has been pilfered by what can only be described as the love child of Geno and that dwarf that stole your stuff in Golden Axe. As you chase down your missing arm, you discover that it has been acquired by the villain in your adventure, Gold Pig.
As you traverse multiple strange lands you assist the inhabitants of Everhood and, in turn, learn more about the world around you. There are plenty of NPC’s to interact with; some of them make sense, others are… an evil ATM. Suffice to say, there are plenty of times you are expected to do battle!
And now we FIGHT!
OK, so… time to fight, without an arm? Great! erm….
In fact, for a large portion of the game, the goal isn’t to attack, but to avoid being hit. You are given 5 channels to stand in, in the same way you are given channels in rhythm games of old. The coloured attacks fly toward you and you can either dodge around or jump over the attacks. Eventually, this changes so you are able to return attacks, but doing so requires “collecting” attacks of the same colour.
Not a conventional action RPG
There’s a lot that helps this game describe itself as an “unconventional” action RPG. Aside from the aforementioned combat system, each land within the world of Everhood comprises its own sets of mechanics. Whether it’s an exchange quest or traversing a maze (there is even a kart racing section within the game) a lot of this falls before the first big twist in the story.
However, the meat of the game is, at heart, an action-based RPG. Movement is with the D-Pad, with double presses causing Red to run. Interacting with the environment uses the A and B buttons, and the inventory can be interacted with using the + button.
There are some issues with movement, however, which fit in with the design of the world you interact with. The world feels as though it was designed around a grid system, with art assets placed over this to create a “natural” world. This creates issues when trying to move around as you will often hit invisible walls. While this, in itself is only a minor annoyance, when you combine it with some elements of the levels having secret paths it adds to the frustration.
Aesthetically, there is a lot here!
Artistically, Everhood is best described by the following sentence: a psychedelic fever dream taking place in the middle of an exploding paint factory! Suffice to say, every possible opportunity to use colour has been taken. The aesthetic itself takes inspiration from games such as Undertale, with heavily pixilated assets being a clear indicator here. However, colour is well-used both aesthetically and as a dynamic in the game. From affecting how you can interact with attacks in battle, to key characters being linked to specific colours, the game uses colour to great effect.
I honestly can’t believe I’ve gotten this far without talking about the music, though. For a game that relies on rhythm mechanics for it’s combat, it is clear that music is going to be an important factor. There are a variety of styles of music used to reflect NPCs or the situation you currently find yourself in. There are a lot of what can be described as dance tunes, but there are also some heavy metal and even simple Spanish guitar sections.
The rhythm sections of the game will often have you tapping your head or foot to the beat. The only real complaint is that there is no bonus attached to hitting buttons on the beat, such as in games like Crypt of the Necrodancer.
Under the (Ever)Hood
While not graphically complex, the majority of the time has been spent on ensuring the game’s more complicated gameplay ideas work. For the most part, these play out flawlessly. Whilst playing I only came across one game-ending glitch, where my game crashed close to the end of the experience. Thankfully, with the high number of save points I made, I literally lost 1 minute of gameplay – however, this could have been an issue if I hadn’t saved often.
There are multiple difficulty settings within the game which, unlike some games, broadcast what the game offers to ensure its difficulty. In this case, it mostly affects your recovery when being harmed during a battle. However, there are also accessibility settings for those with colourblindness and sensitivity issues.
The game itself plays pretty short, but it is an intense few hours. You want to complete the story and are constantly made to feel like you are almost there, compelling you to press on. This brings up another issue whereby the ending itself felt really dragged out. Like, Ace Ventura re-he-eaaaaaaaaly dragged out. There were at least 3 occasions where I felt the game was wrapping itself up, and what followed wasn’t really enough to make me want to continue as the plot had been wrapped up by this point.
Don’t know much… Philosophy?
Philosophically, I haven’t touched on an area the game stresses a lot on the player, and truth be told that’s because so much hinges on it that I don’t want to risk spoiling anything. The game has a central theme of death and afterlife running through it. There is an existential feeling throughout that certainly makes you question your own ideas at times, before hitting you with a rainbow dance sequence anyway.
Everhood is certainly a game that will make you think. Initially, those thoughts may be “What on earth am I playing?” but as you progress into the story, you start trying to see where the twist will come. The story acts as it’s own rabbit hole for you to fall down, and you certainly come across a number of mad hatters along the way.
There is a colourful collection of NPC’s and interacting with them rarely felt boring. Conversely, there are a few sections where I was unsure whether I was supposed to continue being rebellious to the game’s advice or to actually follow it, creating a bit of an issue when breaking the fourth wall I guess. Balancing this out, the intense drive to complete Everhood left me feeling rewarded.
- Fun and challenging rhythm mechanics
- An interesting mix of NPCs
- Compelling, short story
- Times when the player is unsure whether to persevere or not
- The ending plays out longer than it really needs to
- Minor technical issues could pose problems if regular saving isn’t performed