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Full Review: Everything

My first experience with this game led to a weirdly deep and zen day off. I had an unusually chilled day, no work, no social commitments or responsibilities. I was nothing to no one and then I was Everything.

Everything is an unusual game, it reminds me of some of the quirky demoscene games that came out for PS3 (if anyone remembers Linger in Shadows) there's also a touch of the kind of magic practised by ThatGameCompany (Flow, Flower, Journey). It's one of those games with a contemplative atmosphere that leans more towards being "an experience" rather than a traditional game.

Everything has had me intrigued for a while but I never felt like I understood how it is played. You start as a "thing", and eventually can become any other "thing", there's a whole universe of interconnectedness to explore. You start with the storymode that works like a tutorial, gradually introducing you to new powers.

What powers you ask? They range from thinking and dancing to ascending to new forms and spawning followers. That still sounds pretty abstract so I'll try to explain.

The tutorial sees you set out to discover the thoughts of other "things" and eventually your "thing" (I started out as a brown bear) will start producing its own thoughts. You can communicate with other things by singing, which generally serves just to show other things' opinion of you but it's fun to set the sound to play from the controller and run around barking at rocks and trees to see how they respond. Singing also helps you transcend into other things quicker. You'll also find out how to group together with things of a similar/same species and this in turn allows you to dance. If you want to see choreographed cartwheeling cows then you'll be happy, or you could go the artistic route and have a coordinated parade of galaxies with added cosmic singing to make things twinkle and chime. Dancing can either be beautiful or hilarious but it also lets you spawn in new members to your group.

Later on you get more abstract powers such as growing and shrinking objects as the game opens up into a surreal sandbox.

However I've completely missed the main feature of this game. You can be anything (as long as it is one of the thousands of things available in Everything). These things can range from molecules and dust particles to frogs,wheelbarrows, penguins, houses, continents, planets and beyond. Gameplay doesn't vary much between "things", besides some being able to fly but there's an insane joy to skipping between different objects and creatures, it's a good thing I was alone on my first playthrough as a number of times I said out loud "I wanna be a penguin!" or "Yay! Dancing mushrooms!" followed shortly by "I wonder what 30 dancing blue whales looks like?" and the inevitable "Now I'm a rotating mouse army... woooh!". It might be childish but each time you switch to something new text appears to say "you are cow" or "you are chicken" and so on, I might have laughed at a few of these, particularly when I was told "you are a snowflake".

Once you shift into something that is sufficiently big (or small) enough you can change scale. This is how you jump from being microscopic up to a small creature, or from a tree to a land mass.The transition is impressively smooth and really gives the impression you're part of something larger, you might be a tiny grain of sand but you're part of a world orbiting a sun, which itself is a tiny spec in a sea of galaxies.  Some of it may be clever illusion but it works.

You'll also find the rate at which time passes depends on your size, so you can set a trio of continents dancing and watch the sun rise and fall as the days tick by in seconds. You'll even notice human civilisation becomes more advanced, giving you a whole new range of "things" to jump into.

The tutorial does come with a few objectives and a bit of narrative to get you up to speed but after that you are free to roam and do anything you like.

You may find yourself having some philosophical ponderings while playing with potential for profound moments and a new awareness of your place in the universe. There are actual snippets of a philosophical discussion recorded by British American philosopher Alan Watts to collect, kind of like audio logs .I found I actually put down the controller to pay attention to some of these. They're written in a way that's relatively easy to understand and entertaining. They may not be for everyone but they fit the meditative tone of the game. However if you prefer to dive into the game to see what crazy surrealism you can conjure up then perhaps these "lectures" may be too dry and slow for you to enjoy.

I took my time with the directed sections of the game and managed to log around 5-6 hours before I was given an option of NewGame+. After this point the world is your oyster (or vice versa if you want to transform a planet into a sea creature). The only problem with this is if you're the kind of person the needs objectives or story to drive you through a game. There are a bunch of cryptic trophies and the draw of finding all the audio logs (however these aren't really hidden as they spawn close by every so often) and of course the ultimate challenge of becoming everything and spending some time being each "thing" in the game. Other than this completionist drive there's not too much to keep you going after you've become accustomed to the existentialism, although it's fun to share with friends and see what they discover. Everything is best shared.

If you'd rather see more of what the worlds offer without having to decide what to do next there is a nifty autoplay feature. Leave the game idle for a few seconds and a customisable AI will take over, discovering new "things", initiating dances, and anything else the player can do. It works as a pretty decent screensaver with some nice trippy surprises (Cosmic elephants FTW). Autoplay can even discover more audiologs for you too and it has one more trick up its sleeve, Documentary Mode. In this mode actions are a little more limited but each "thing" you switch into comes with a short description. If you fancy reading these you might learn something, however cataloguing Everything is a big ask so each of thee descriptions are pulled directly from Wikipedia. It's a clever solution but does come with its own limitations.

Everything is appropriately an eclectic game, you can burn through the story, go on an existential journey, seek out the philosophy snippets or just play around like a lunatic. There's something for everyone but how deep you connect may depend in how you approach it.

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