You can be Anything in "Everything"
After finishing the PS4 download and firing up Everything, the first thing I see on the bottom of the screen is "loading crustacean geometry" and immediately I know I'm in for something quite a bit different than the usual gaming experience.
When "press X to think" appears next, I'm more than a little intrigued, but also concerned -- is this just an art house project somebody slapped together to show off, or is this is a real game? Am I about to experience something obnoxiously pretentious with no purpose?
After having been a little of everything for awhile now, the best way to describe the game would be to take a more refined Goat Simulator and gently smash it together with Katamari Damacy. Add in some deep thoughts about existence and whether anything truly matters, and you're at Everything.
Like With Life, Is There A Point?
Let's get this big concern out of the way right now: there's absolutely no "win condition" per se at all. There's no mission objectives. X number of aliens don't need to be defeated and there's no resources to hoard. You aren't trying to roll up the whole galaxy piece by piece or land your jet pack goat on the satanic summoning circle.
With a few exceptions later on, there's really no end goal or specific levels. You do whatever you feel like, exploring areas (or not) at your leisure and deciding how big or small you want to go along the way. Wanna be a colony of leaves floating on the air? Go for it. Want to become the sun and explore the galaxy? Might as well. Ever wanted to see reality from a microscopic scale? Have fun.
There are additional gameplay elements to unlock over time as you explore, but on the whole this game is all about exploring and sight seeing while being anything and everything.
I've seen a lot of people calling Everything a tech demo and comparing it to 1 2 Switch in that it seems to more imply possibilities to come instead of being an actual full game. To an extent that's actually true, but there's much, much more to see and explore here than those reviewers are giving credit for.
All About Perception
There's an extreme level of oddity in the opening section of the game that may draw you in or immediately turn you off, depending on how much you like the aforementioned offbeat titles such as Katamari.
From a thought in the void to an upside-down buffalo who chats with plants and seeks out others of his kind to form a herd, things get incredibly weird, and fast. Before long a helpful rock lets you know not to worry, as this is all normal, and the journey is the destination.
It doesn't matter what direction you go, if you walk or run, or whether you ascend or descend in scale -- you will always get where you are going.
When ascending scale into the biggest objects and having a larger view over existence, reality starts to get incredibly abstract, until eventually you get so big... you become a single particle floating in the infinite ether yet again and start all over in a new universe.
Along the way from single-celled organism to rock to mountain to galaxy there are a huge number of creatures and objects to inhabit. You can be those adorable little tardigrades everyone went nuts over a few summers back when Cosmos was back on the air or even take on the form of a giant alien supercontinent.
At one point, I had a whole posse of giant alien supercontinents dancing while exploring a massive planet. There might not be a point to it, but I had a lot of fun anyway.
Gaming As Therapy
Besides the random thoughts of different objects, you'll occasionally unlock these incredibly soothing, hippy-tastic voice over segments about mankind's place in the world, where we came from, and what we are doing.
These infrequent segments remind me a bit of listening through an Anathema album and then hitting the new agey, pseudo science voice over segment thrown in at the end of every release that's supposed to make you feel less sad.
On the other hand, some of the thoughts that random objects and creatures have are super dark. This is everything, after all, and not just-happy-things. Sometimes life's not the greatest, and that's represented here in places that can drag you down while exploring your connection to the universe at large.
As new gameplay elements are unlocked, the "story" can become exceedingly profound. I won't ruin it with spoilers, but suffice to say there's reason to keep playing through the cycle of ascending and descending the universe.
Much like Abed in that episode of Community where he shoots a movie about the life of Jesus, Everything gets super meta and drags the player down a serious rabbit hole.
Everything is telling us that everything is connected, and its doing it via an interactive game that's part of everything. As these realizations hit, spurred on by the thoughts and voiceovers, I as the player started to question my place within my reality and asked: am I a game? What is life?
People could probably skip out on the weekly therapist visits and just play Everything for a few hours.
Giving Up Control
Those who don't like the lack of win condition or purpose to the game will probably hate this, but there's also an auto-play option that offers some interesting possibilities.
Thing can get really odd (and you can see the scope and extent of the game more clearly) when you use this feature to give up control and just let life happen. Recently, Polygon set everything to max settings and live streamed Everything for 24 hours straight just to see where it all would go.
Along the way are bizarre interactions and breathtaking vistas for an experience that's either pointless or profound, depending on how you want to look at it.
There's plenty of interesting things to see in this mode, and some of the odd alien landscapes and creatures found will bring to mind what No Man's Sky showed in those screenshots that turned out to not really exist.
The Bottom Line
Reaction to Everything is going to be absolutely all over the map, because, well... it's everything! It's a toss up whether any given gamer is going to love or hate it.
Sadly, many people likely won't give it a shot and never discover what's underneath the surface here based on assumptions about the concept. If you're willing to go out on a limb (or maybe just be a limb for awhile), there's something wondrous going on here that's worth trying out.
Note: The developer provided a copy of Everything to the writer for the purposes of this review.