Everything is an interactive experience developed by David O’Reilly, and published by Double Fine Productions, where everything you see is a thing you can be. It’s hard to pigeon hole Everything into a particular genre, as it is an incredibly unique game, although if I were forced to do so, I think it could be best described as an existence simulator.
The game begins with the player existing as nothing more than a thought, moving through nothingness. After a short amount of time, the thought is pushed into the world as a randomly assigned being – a mountain goat or a camel for example. One is then free to explore the world; with Everything setting the player tasks (signified by the game’s logo hovering above something) which help to give the game some cohesion and a plot of sorts, gradually teaching the player the game’s mechanics, such as interacting with other things by “singing” at them – calling out to them, which usually yields an acknowledgement. Now, I use the word things as a loose term, as you’ll find over the course of the game that you can be, and interact with, absolutely anything, be they living or inanimate.
Everything goes on to explain that whichever thing you’re existing as can befriend its own or similar “species”, mate to create new life by dancing with their own species and unfriend them altogether. Everything really gets going when the tutorial teaches its core mechanic – how to ascend or descend into other things, allowing you to exist as anything you see – during my initial playing session I existed as mammals, arachnids, plants, pollen and even a grain of sand, all the way up to islands and planets.
The ascent/descent mechanic is easy to get to grips with, as arrows that appear at the top or bottom the game’s HUD, a solid circle within a larger ring that shows that there’s something close by that you can either ascend or descend into. To move down a definitive level a larger on-screen circle must be moved into a triangle. Once you’ve existed as a range of different things, you’ll be able to transform from one to another at the press of a button. A record of everything you’ve existed as is held in a log accessed in the pause menu. Discovering what you can become is a joy, which in my case lead to oft repeated questions to myself Can I be this? Can I be that? To which the answer is always yes. This can lead to an obsession – ooh, I haven’t been one of those yet.
Whilst exploring the world, you’ll also notice thought bubble logos, which offer up a thing’s thoughts on their reasons for being in the form of a pop-up text bubble. There are also shooting target-like logos, which trigger audio clips from famed British philosopher Alan Watts and offer his thoughts on the existence of all things. As with all the things you’ve inhabited, the thoughts and audio clips are stored in files, which can be viewed at any time through the pause menu.
Having experienced enough of Everything, the player is led back to where they started their experience and unlock a gate into a more surreal universe, one where one can then exist as objects rather than flora, fauna and mineral. The world looks like a Monty Python cutaway scene, as video game arcade units roam the land and letters of the alphabet hang in mid-air.
Everything’s graphics are simplistic, like a less-blocky version of Minecraft, environments are vast – I’ve yet to discover a coastline. The things that inhabit the world move in different ways. Larger things like trees and rocks will slide over the land, whereas mammals will flip end over end, insects will scuttle along and pollen will float. Movement can be sped up by pressing and holding one of the face buttons. You can look around your surroundings using the right thumbstick. Perspective regardless of which thing you inhabit is viewed from the third person.
Music in-game is subtle and calming, a constant easy-listening loop that at times is hardly audible. Each thing has its own sound when communicating with others, even the more surreal objects; goats bleat, mountain lions roar and basketballs make their distinctive bouncing sound. When moving as a mammal, each head over heels rotation is accompanied by a click-clack train-like sound. Watts’ audio log lectures make you question your perception, although this may be a little too high brow for some.
Whilst there is a plot, Everything gives you a level of freedom in how you explore and interact with things. I made my own fun whilst inhabiting a scorpion, recruiting an army of other scorpions, before roaming the area intimidating more docile creatures like some street gang; calling out to other things whilst existing as a dangerous creature will cause the other to jump, a skull logo over appearing over their head before they head for safer ground.
Ultimately, how much enjoyment you get out of Everything will depend on what type of experience you’re looking for. Personally, I found Everything a breath of fresh air, and an escape from raiding tombs, solving puzzles and killing mutants – however, as a reviewer I have to bear in mind that it may not be enjoyable for everyone. Due to the glacially slow pace of the game and lack of action, casual gamers will be unlikely to find Everything to their taste. Likewise, the game’s philosophical element may be lost on younger games, despite having a PEGI 3 rating. If you’re the type of gamer that has two or three high-octane games on the go, Everything is the perfect counterbalance, after all sometimes it’s nice to chill out and be a ladybird or a plant without having the worry of saving the day for a few hours here and there.