Sponsored by: Me, as a gift to my daughter
Time played: All of it.
The game is named Everything. The jokes write themselves! Watch:
- Today, I bought Everything in the PlayStation store.
- I have great internet. It only took twenty minutes to download Everything.
- It's not every day a father gets to honestly say he gave his daughter Everything.
I could go on, but I have a massive task ahead of me. I have to review Everything!
There are some people who don't like anything. I, however, can find something nice to say about Everything. Everything has at least one redeeming quality, after all.
So, what's the deal with Everything? Everything is the ultimate manifestation of the Walking Simulator. There is no plot, and very little to do, or maybe there is Everything to do. At the start of the game you are put in control of some sort of animal (what kind is different for each new game) and given a brief tutorial in how to move. Spoiler alert: You use the joysticks.
Like any good walking simulator, Everything has audio logs to find. Here, the logs contain philosophy lectures by Alan Watts. The recordings are enjoyable in themselves, thanks to Alan Watts’ voice, which reminds me of a British Graham Rowat. It's not spoiling anything to note that the underlying premise of the lecture is that everything is interrelated, and nothing is outside of Everything. Mathematically, that statement ranks right up there with the best children's songs by They Might Be Giants, but this isn't math, it's philosophy, which is an academic discipline dedicated to seeking incontrovertible proof that math doesn't work, which I suppose makes Watts’ work a little controversial. [Ed. note: DT is almost exactly wrong about this conception of philosophy, unless we're talking about the French.]
Mechanically the game reminds me of Flow, except that it was designed by people who learned the correct lesson of the Sega Activator (i.e., that motion controls are terrible). You move about the environment until you encounter something that you can take over. That thing might be slightly smaller, slightly larger, or slightly the same size as you. Hitting the upper and lower size boundaries makes things get interesting, because at that point you can zoom in or out to the next tier of things that make up Everything. Zoom up from an animal, and you can be a tree. Zoom down from a bug, and you're a dust mote surrounded by pollen. There are tiers up above and below those, but I won't spoil it for you. Discovery is part of the fun. In fact, it's all of the fun. There isn't much to do except explore and discover.
Now, you might wonder what the player models are like, since the player can literally play as anything in the game. Good question! The player models are simple, but in an aesthetically deliberate way. The polygon counts are low, but the visual style supports it, and the game manages to pull off an austere beauty, especially when you're zooming around as a whole galaxy, heedless of the gravitational havoc you're wreaking on the universe.
The animations are another matter. I fully understand that a game featuring so many playable characters would have to skimp on something, but the way the animals eschew walking for tumbling around, tush over teakettle is a little jarring. It brings to mind playing with those little plastic animals you get in tubes from zoo gift shops – which isn't a bad thing in itself, but it lends some unintentional hilarity to a game that seems on the edge of taking itself too seriously.
Or maybe it's not so unintentional. A few of Watts’ lectures are infused with dry humor of the sort that resonates with me, and the tone of his voice leads me to suspect that he finds Everything amusing.
When it comes right down to it, that's not a bad philosophy to shoot for.
Will Everything take more time?
I'm not so sure that I'll be spending much more time with Everything. I will tell you who will be, though, and that's my daughter. She loves the world and all the things in it, and she finds Everything amusing too.
This may be trite parent talk, but watching her explore Everything is well worth the price of admission.
Is it the Dark Souls of PHI102 lectures?
Everything is complex and mysterious, but it isn't difficult. Once you get the movement down, there isn't much to it but finding things you haven't seen before and inhabiting their consciousnesses.
You might find it extremely difficult to see the point of Everything, but if you do then it's probably not a game for you. As Alan Watts might say, Everything has no point except to be. That should be enough for Everything.