Ironically, it’s very difficult to categorise and pin down exactly what Everything is.
You might call it a game; which is to say that it’s a device of recreational escapism through which you directly but only somewhat manipulate events. You download it to a console and pick up the controller and by that action you are given agency within this digital space. To describe it as an exhibition of sorts, or as an experiential anomaly would be more apt. However for the purposes of this review, let’s say it’s a game. Although I should make it clear at this point; I don’t believe that’s quite an encompassing enough title.
So let’s start off easy, think of a thing. Anything at all. Yes, you can be that. Think of another thing; think microscopic, think molecular, now think galactic or universal. An object, an animal, a pathogen, a concept. Keep thinking. Yes. Yes to all of those things. In this game, you are everything. Everything you can think of, everything within conception and some things beyond it.
Everything, created by David O’Reilly, is a game where the player can be every single thing. Whatever you see, whatever you can grasp, you can be. It’s through this mechanism that you experience the universe and all of creation from the perspective of everything within it. You see how everything reacts with everything else. Yet, that isn’t the point of this game. As you play you begin to classify and identify everything you find and inhabit, you listen to the thoughts of the things around you, and those thoughts are recorded in your own mind. Eventually, you begin to have your own thoughts, constructed from fragments of previously heard thoughts that eventually come to sound like coherent and original ideas. Though we know they aren’t.
This is simply one of the many truths about everything that you come to discover. Through the narration of the great British American philosopher and writer Alan Watts; Everything addresses ideas of individuality, levels of magnification, perception, space and time, life and death, thought and humanity. The vast, vibrating inter-connectivity of existence and everything within it. Upon the varying levels of the physical, metaphysical and conceptual plains, and so much more. Excerpts taken from the massive archive of lectures and talks given by Alan Watts are sprinkled into every facet of the game space, discoverable on every plain by any state of being. As the journey continues; new abilities are unlocked, to transform one thing into another, change size, to multiply, create and destroy and so on. To put it simply, want to change a sun into a shoe? It’s possible. Or maybe turn a snowflake into 3 elliptical galaxies, 8 seagulls and a dead pixel? Go ahead, and trust me, it gets weirder.
Against my better judgement, I’ve already said too much. The true value of this game, much like the real life it mimics, comes in discovering it for yourself. In listening to Mr Watts’ sultry British accent as he repeatedly cracks open your third eye and irrevocably changes your thought and perceptions of the universe around you.
Let’s get back to Everything, the game. Initially its art and animation style betray a simplicity; an innocence and a cuteness. However as you progress you realise that this game is a thing to behold, far from being about the way this game looks, it still manages to be a spectacle through the nigh infinite number of things it has to show you. This game handles as you might expect; as Mr Watts puts it, it’s like dancing. You make yourself the destination and stop worrying about whether or not you get there. This game is very much like that if you choose to see it as a linear path, and though initially it feels slow going, you don’t really mind. It stops feeling slow the further you go, and the more you discover.
Technically speaking there is an end to things. If you inhabit, identify and categorise all the things, listen to every excerpt of narration and you choose to call that the ending, then that’s what it is. At that point replay value may seem irrelevant. Really, this is a game you can pick up again and again no matter what you’ve seen or done previously. Replay value is a matter of choice. Due to the colossal number and combinations of things you can do and be, there’s plenty to go back to should you choose. I can’t compare this game to any other, and I don’t say that as some broad declaration of its supposed impeccability. It simply stands in its own class, an experience unlike any newfangled VR venture (though a VR version of this game would go down a treat).
So, the verdict? Everything is a game that dares to be different and dares you to be different in turn. For anyone out there who still thinks video games aren’t an art form, this title is your first and only case study. It’s intrinsically beautiful; challenging and changing the paradigm of what a game is. It teaches you about everything around you and it teaches you about yourself. I want to write more, I could write more. I want to tell you about everything in Everything; every unexpected mechanic and cleverly satirical and philosophical caveat. I want to wax lyrical over the topics I touched upon earlier and some that I didn’t, untethered by the fact that I care about your experience and want you to experience this. This is a result of what Everything has done to me, and that’s for you to go and be. This is a game review, its function is to convince you whether or not you should or shouldn’t play this game. All I can do is sincerely and urgently implore you to give your time over to this title. I won’t tell you it’ll be worth it, it was for me. It will or it won’t be for you. What I will say is that you should go and find out. Either way, play.
Be a thought, be a thing. A thing that thinks, a thing that things (if things were a verb). Be Everything.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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