- SPONSORED -
Developer: David OReilly
Publisher: Double Fine Productions
Platform: PS4 (reviewed), PC
This being the Art issue, I thought it would be a good idea to have a gander at an “artsy” game, one where the rules go out the window and any sort of weird shit is possible. Oh boy, did I find one!
Everything is from the slightly demented mind of David OReilly — an artist, filmmaker, and animator with a very distinct aesthetic. If you’ve seen the Adventure Time episode “A Glitch Is a Glitch” you’ll know exactly what it is; low-poly 3D models, more glitches than Assassin’s Creed: Unity, and an absurd sense of humour inspired by internet memes. His previous effort in game development was Mountain, a simulator which barely qualified as a game since you couldn’t interact with anything.
Perhaps taking that criticism into account, Everything is a game about controlling, well, everything. You’re plopped into the middle of a procedurally generated universe as a random creature, and initially you can “descend” into something smaller than what you start as, the game’s scale shifting with you. Eventually you’ll reach, no joke, the sub-atomic level, at which point you can “ascend” into bigger objects, until you can control entire galaxies. You can keep shifting between levels, so one minute you could be a cockroach and the next you’re an entire freaking galaxy!
There seems to be an underlying hint of ridiculousness indicative of OReilly’s involvement. The animals in the game don’t have a traditional walk cycle, instead flipping head-over-heels in the most hilarious fashion, as if they decided walking was bullshit and cartwheels were much more fun (which, face it, they are). Objects of a similar nature can be grouped together, and it is incredibly hilarious to see massive herds of deer or shipping containers roam across the landscape without a care in the world. The very concept of the game is so ridiculous you can’t help but wonder if they made the whole thing for a joke. Yet, it seems OReilly wants you to take it a bit more seriously.
Interspersed throughout the world are “thoughts” — tiny pieces of existentialist musings from perspective of an object. It’s a little weird to see what a rock thinks about its own existence, but weirdness is OReilly’s raison d’être. More substantially, the presence of quotes from philosopher Alan Watts really hammer home the game’s themes. Watts espoused the belief that all objects in the universe are connected, that we need to free ourselves of the idea that space separates things. Including snippets of Watts’ lectures to find is a stroke of genius that takes Everything from being a weird gameplay experiment to a much more transcendental experience. You stop worrying about trying to find something else to control and instead start to think about what every object in the game, from an atom to a planet, is thinking and experiencing. You find yourself drawn in and never want to leave.
Unfortunately, despite the metaphysical experiences and there being so many things to find, there is little else of substance to Everything. I felt like I had found everything the game had to offer in just over an hour, and while it felt great to play at the time, I didn’t feel any need to return to it. If you’re a hardcore completionist who likes collecting trophies then maybe you’ll get a bit more out of it gameplay-wise, but this is otherwise a therapeutic experience masquerading as a video game.
I don’t know, maybe I’m just not qualified enough to talk about art games? Why do I play games? HOLY SHIT, WHY DO I EVEN EXIST?! AAAAAAGGGGHHHH!