I’m reminded of the question posed to Deep Thought in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy: “We want you to tell us the answer. Life! The Universe! Everything!” Having just watched this movie mere days before my first boot up of the Nintendo Switch game, aptly named Everything, that quote has been stuck in my head the entire time I’ve played the game, and for good reasons, I think. Everything is a game that’s pretty challenging to classify or place into a specific genre. For me, it’s an artistic experience with a strong ‘collection’ mechanic to which I’ll explain in a bit. It’s also a game that’s just as challenging to really describe primarily because it’s so interpretative, but also, it’s easy to start spoiling much of the games content…which…is sort of everything.
For a game that is very open and explorative, I immediately found it does a pretty great job of on-boarding you. Thought bubbles are navigated to, and some of these will unlock new features of the game as you go around exploring the environment. It’s with this form that the game evolves the more time you spend in it. From the start you’ll be taught simply how to move around. Later you’re able to control multiples or groups of similar items. Much later, the game opens up into more advanced trickery such as scaling and resizing items as you please and more.
By this point, you’re likely still asking…what exactly is Everything? Well philosophically there are many ways to likely interpret this game, and to find certain meanings as you play. It constantly gives you very philosophical nuggets of information and questions as you continue to play. More interesting is that the game is ‘narrated’ in a manner by the one and only famous British-American philosopher Alan Watts using many of his speeches from the 1960s. These speeches heard from within the game at certain intervals ties it entirely together into what I feel is a meaningful artistic experience.
You’re surely now saying, but no! What do I actually do in Everything? Well let’s go ahead and boil gameplay down a bit then. Everything is about experiencing life, nature, and the make up of the universe. You are given control of a seal in the beginning of the game, and shortly in, you’re able to transcend or descend into other things seen around you. All objects can move around, and even sprint if you so choose. It’s the same when controlling a tree and an elephant or even an entire island, or a galaxy! I mentioned before that as the game progresses, you unlock new features of the game that allows further manipulation of everything you control. This is where the game takes on a more artistic approach, and I’ll avoid spoiling that too much, but if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to spawn a fish at the scale of an atom, well Everything is the game for you!
Everything is also very much a collection game. Every new thing that can be controlled is given a specifically colored/shimmering engagement ring. You have an entire index grouped by types of things as well, and with every new thing you discover and control for a bit, you’ll even be prompted by what percent of that type and time you’ve discovered. So, in a way, this game at its core becomes similar to a Pokémon game, in that you yearn to discover and try out everything from the smallest of particles known to man, to entire galaxies or star clusters. You gotta collect’em all.
Controlling all of the various items in Everything is unique. Most things don’t function like the real world. The majority of animals are statically posed and when you move them, they will basically roll or flip around themselves. In contrast, moving a fish or a microbe around will feel more natural. Trees and foliage move by ‘growing’ new ones in place of where it just was a moment ago. You’ll be given an appreciation for the scale and magnitude of things; moving a planet around a solar system, only to descend a few times, and then be controlling micro-organisms in a lake on that planet. Philosophically, and physically, you find that appreciation for the scale of life and all things.
Personally, Everything gave me an introspective look at my own physical speck of an existence, but also the impact that one speck can have on its surroundings. I think that this sort of game will have different meanings for others. Ultimately, like I mentioned at the beginning, we will never know the answer to Everything…well, other than 42.
Final Thoughts: GOOD
Everything is an interpretive experience game, and one that’s quite hard to score, as so much of it will come down to personal engagement. The collection and exploration mechanics are well defined, and getting to hear some of Alan Watt’s speeches is a treat and further adds to the gravity of the game. For many, this will be too random of an experience, but I implore giving it a go as it’s a relaxing game to enjoy.
Alex has been actively gaming since the release of the Nintendo. Turning passion into profession, he’s spent just over a decade in game development, and is currently the Creative Director at a studio.