Everything Review – New Perspective (PS4)
Irish film maker David OReilly is best known for his work on Adventure Time and Her, but he made an immediate impact on the gaming world in 2014 when he released Mountain for PC. The game was advertised with no controls, as players just watched the life of a mountain go by. The release was filled with surprises, and found success with its $1 price point. Three years later, OReilly has followed up Mountain with Everything, a highly ambitious sandbox title that allows players to control everything from single cell organisms to the universe itself.
It’s important to define what Everything is and isn’t. In no way has David OReilly and company created a simulation. Most animals move by rolling around as if they were a box, ecosystems aren’t accurately reproduced (don’t be shocked if you somehow see a cow in a desert), and realism is clearly not the goal here. Instead the game offers up an incredible procedurally generated world filled with different creatures, objects, and ways to make sure the player experiences a new perspective.
While some will most likely be disappointed by the lack of direction in Everything (there’s little instruction aside from some early tutorials that teach players the basics), it also manages to offer up an amazing amount of freedom. From zooming in on some grass to see what the bugs are doing to swimming in the ocean as a shark, there’s always something fascinating to do inside the world. The player just has to decide on where they want to explore, and incredible sights are just a few twists away.
After completing a rather fascinating tutorial, I had a lot of tools at my fingertips. Not only could I change what object I was controlling at will, I was able to transform into anything I had controlled in the past, multiply objects, make something grow or shrink, and most importantly make dancing occur at any moment. I truly felt like God, being able to manipulate a world as I pleased. The interactivity does have some drawbacks, though, as the majority of objects control the same. It’s understandable when you consider the sheer number of objects in the game, but seeing a deer and cat interact the same is still disappointing. There’s still a lot of tools at the player’s disposal, though, and it can lead to some truly great moments.
One of my favorite moments occurred while I watching ants walk around in the grass, and I switched to a small butterfly that was hovering above my head. Suddenly I was flying around the patch of grass as if it was a giant forest, when in reality I’d step on the area I was currently exploring without a second thought. It was the first time that the game’s focus on perspectives really hit me. This giant world I was seeing was nothing if I simply moved up a level in-game, but it was brimming with life in that moment. It made me take a step back and really think about my place in the world, and how so much that is important to me is completely insignificant to others.
This sort of introspection is a pretty regular occurrence while playing Everything, and a lot of it comes from the dialogue that random creatures (or inanimate objects) will have to say. These range from upbeat thoughts to depressing ones, but it’s always quite surreal getting to hear what a building is thinking about. The game also features a ton of audio clips from British philosopher Alan Watts that can be triggered, and these include topics such as suicide being the “one truly serious philosophical problem.” These clips didn’t always make me feel great about the state of the world, but it nevertheless made me think throughout my playthrough.
Sit Back, and Watch
One of the coolest features of Everything is that if the game is left alone for a few seconds, it’ll begin to play itself. The game can automate everything the player can do from making creatures dance to traveling between ecosystems. It even allows the player to customize what the computer can do, from restricting traveling to forcing it to never trigger conversations.
I spent about as much time watching the game as I did playing, and I found it to be a compelling experience both ways thanks to how stylized the artwork is. Everything has become my go to screensaver for my television, and I enjoy having it on while I work on other things. If I see something particularly interesting, like say a new animal that I hadn’t seen before, I can simply tap the controller and regain control. It takes the compelling experience that Mountain was, and takes it to the next level.
Eventually, the player also unlocks the ability to have the game play in a documentary mode. This switches between objects at regular intervals, while also showing descriptions of each creature (most of it sourced from Wikipedia). This ended up being an oddly informative watch for me, and after learning a few new tidbits about animals I had known for years, I wanted to know more. Perhaps the biggest accomplishment of Everything is that it encourages learning about this incredible world that everyone lives in, even if it’s far from realistic.
No matter if I was playing or watching, every hour I spent with Everything was an interesting one. Much like life itself, there were moments of beauty and laughter, but also sadness. It’s undoubtedly a strange creation, but no other game can allow players to listen to Alan Watts discuss the interplay of difference while watching 10 outhouses perform a dance that results in a baby outhouse somehow being born. There’s something special about these moments, and it’s why Everything will be on my television screen for a long time to come.
Review code for Everything provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS4 Pro. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.