Developer: David OReilly
Publisher: Double Fine Productions
Format: PS4, PC (reviewed)
Release Date: March 21, 2017 (PS4), April 21, 2017 (PC)
Ever wonder what it would be like to be an okapi flipping its way through a desert, talking to rocks, becoming other smaller and larger things until you’re the very fabric of life itself or whole galaxies, all while listening to the philosophical discussions of Alan Watts? I’m guessing probably not, but if this at all sounds bizarre yet fascinating to you, than Everything might just be the game you’re looking for.
I started the game as the aforementioned okapi, but what you start as is random. I was excited to start as an okapi because they’re an animal I’m quite fond of, and so I felt attached to my character. I was thoroughly content with living an okapi life and making other animal friends, but then I was hit with my first of many surprises that Everything had to offer.
I was told by a rock that I could enter the perspectives of smaller things. I found a snake and excitedly became it, only to find that I was unable to return to the okapi collective I had become. There was no way to become something bigger than the snake I was, so I turned into a scorpion, and then a pebble, and then, to my greatest pleasure, I turned into a speck of flower pollen! Much like the talking rocks and animals in my okapi form, there were things here to talk to as well, all with something simple yet profound to say.
Eventually I became so small that I’m pretty sure I became the fabric of all life, and it was as strange and as wonderful as you might imagine. I felt far away from my original okapi, but then I gained the ability to become larger things, and so I shot all the way back up, only to find that I was in an entirely different world! The exploration of just how big of a thing I could become continued until I was an entire forest, a planet, a star, a galaxy, and so on until I again entered a place that seemed like the building blocks of life. This, I discovered, went on forever. I could become so small that, when I exited the smallest-most level, I again became some huge galaxy.
I realized that my okapi form had been nothing more than one of many perspectives. I realized that I myself was the character and that I was merely using the game as a lens for all of these other perspectives. Not only were these visual perspectives from the things I became, but perspectives of the things I interacted with, all with thoughts and worries I would never expect things like rocks and strands of hair to have. Everything is “an exercise of perception,” as Alan Watts would put it, and being able to explore each vastly different perspective shows just how different and just how similar everything is.
Through interacting with animals and objects during your exploration, you not only gain the thought of each thing, but you also learn more about the mechanics in Everything. This includes transforming at will into other things you’ve been in the past while retaining whatever size you currently are. Needless to say, I quickly went about turning myself into galaxy-sized okapis that took over the observable universe, deeming it the “okapiverse.” I also went right ahead and made everything in the “fabric of life” stage into black widow spiders, so there’s something to consider while you try to sleep at night.
All joking aside, I really felt a sense of wonder and exploration while playing Everything. It was beautiful yet beautifully sad, and the quotations of Alan Watts really instilled a sense of profound insignificance that the game illustrates through the player shifting perspectives, rather than ever remaining as any one creature for an extended period of time. Watts’ dialogue is a perfect fit and finding his voice clips at every perspective feels comforting, as if despite how small or large you are and despite how far from your starting location you are, you have a friend. A friend that’s comforting in a ‘you and everything around you is insignificant and predictable yet vastly important to everything’s existence’ sort of way.
Every time I thought I had more or less seen everything that Everything had to offer, I discovered a new ‘everything’ and began exploring everything all over again. It all felt vast and mind-boggling, but I fully embraced getting lost in it all. If there’s one thing Everything does best, it’s the sense of free and open exploration it inspires in the player. There’s no right or wrong direction to go in and everything folds in on itself, letting you get so small that you become something otherwise perceived as big so that you can explore more and do it all over again.
Everything is relaxing as there’s no sense of danger and no obstacles to overcome. The game lacks any objective or point, but that is the point of it, really. It’s a game that takes what it is and unapologetically owns it. And so, because Everything is as open as it is, I will also leave open my scoring of this game. I loved it; I thought the game was everything I wasn’t expecting it to be and in the best possible sort of way. But I also realize that it’s perhaps not everybody’s cup of tea. So if you liked what you’ve read here and want to experience the game for yourself, it’s fairly priced on Steam and I wholly recommend it.