Take a moment, and look around you. Take in your surroundings. You might see a computer keyboard, a pencil, an open book, a desk. If you’re reading this on your phone, you might see any number of other things; a car passing by, a dog out for a walk, a mountain in the distance, the phone in your hand, the shoes on your feet. Each one of these items – living or inanimate, mobile or sedentary, big or small – can be controlled in Everything, along with more than a thousand other things. The scope is awesome and intimidating, but somehow also simple and to-the-point.
Everything is less of a game, with a plot and objectives and leveling up, and more of an exploration simulation. You start off as a horse and work through a tutorial, where you learn how to interact with other horses by “singing” and “dancing,” or how to spawn a brand new tiny horse, as if two horses you’re controlling just gave birth, full-on Sims style (meaning the new baby horse is just suddenly there; no muss, no fuss). Soon after you also learn how to move into larger things such as houses and clouds, as well as into smaller things like grass and insects, but more on that later.
Of course this kind of makes sense: animals giving birth and all, but these commands work on — as the title suggests — everything. If you’re in control of a tree, then sing to and befriend another tree, you can dance with it and spawn a new baby tree. You’ve got two molecules of hydrogen? Make ‘em dance, and pop out a third. Oh, there are two slices of pizza on ground? You’d best believe they’re going to dance and make some more. Since you can control upwards of 30 things at once, you can keep spawning more and more pizza until you’ve got a veritable herd of pepperoni slices, wandering the city like there’s nothing strange about it.
Mark my words, that is not the only thing that makes Everything strange. In addition to taking control of things that usually can’t move or procreate and making them do exactly that is one thing, but the way most things move by rolling, akin to a toy block, is another. When you’re controlling a key and move forward, and it flips onto one side, then another, that kind of makes sense. However, when you move forward as the horse you start as, or nearly any other animal on land for that matter, they move the same way. You’ll see no fancy leg animations here; just a horse flat on its face, then upside-down, then on its tail, then back on all fours. Squirrels, elephants, flamingos; they all have these awkward blocky movements. While it’s actually quite hilarious to behold, it feels counter-intuitive to how the rest of the experience with Everything makes you feel.
Being able to inhabit and control literally anything you come across is a unique experience that feels similar in many ways to games you may have played before, while altogether an entirely new and intriguing beast. If you take the absurdity of Katamari Damacy, the staggering scope of No Man’s Sky, the peaceful serenity of Flower, and a narration by Alan Watts for kicks, that’s Everything in a nutshell.
These narrations are actually a shining point in Everything. Though completely optional, you can find and trigger new snippets of narration from several of the well-known philosopher’s lectures, presentations, and recordings, and listen to him discuss life, nature, perspective on the world, and more. All the recordings used in Everything tie directly into the game’s themes of viewing things from different perspectives, the existence of a great many things different from yourself, and how all of it exists together in harmony. Watts’ recordings are complemented nicely by the dulcet melodies that roll in the background, which are truly relaxing to listen to on their own, even if you choose to skip the philosophy lessons. Either way, if you’re in the mood to have some deep thoughts and contemplations, this is a game you’ll want to spend a few hours with.
That said, if you’re in the mood to “beat” Everything and reach the “ending,” you might have a more difficult and frustrating time. By the time you’ve learned how to sing and dance, how to recruit others and how to spawn more, how to become a massive spiral galaxy or a miniscule dust particle, and other little tricks, you receive an objective to find a specific item you may have seen on your journey thus far. For me this occurred over two hours into the game, and I had travelled extremely far away from said item, no longer knowing which galaxy, which planet, which land mass it might be on now.
Thus began the largest needle-in-a-haystack search I had ever attempted.
Around 5 hours later I had witnessed many incredible sights, both familiar and alien in nature, but I was seemingly no closer to finding that item and reaching my objective. For the most part this was perfectly fine, as the greater adventure in Everything is purely seeing all that you can see, being all you can be, and going wherever you want to go. As clichéd and cringey as it may sound, Everything isn’t meant to be played, it is meant to be experienced.
Still, it’s always nice to have that feeling of beating a game, and after a single goal taunting you for so long without being able to complete it, you start to feel worn out and frustrated. The excitement of discovering new places and things loses some of its WOW factor when you can’t find the one thing you’re looking for, and that can make it difficult to want to keep playing.
Thankfully after one more hour I found my objective, and from there was able to “beat the game” relatively quickly. I say “beat the game” in quotations because once you wrap that up and open your menu to find that after around 10 hours you’ve only seen about 40% of what the game holds, that reinvigorates you and makes you want to keep exploring and finding new things. From there it’s like one great big, open-world collection quest, where the item to collect is to everything you see, and what you can see is dependant entirely on how much you want to explore.
As a sort of cherry on top, you can learn a little bit about each and every thing you have become. Everything catalogs all of your findings (and recordings, so you can go back and listen to them again later if you like), and for most of its more-than-1500 entries there is an explanation detailing what that thing is, grabbing lengthy snippets of information from the corresponding Wikipedia entry. While anyone just looking to play a game could easily gloss over this, it is a genuinely nice feature for those interested in knowing more about the real-world plants or animals or vehicles they are controlling.
Ultimately Everything is not for everyone. Its audience is for those looking to disappear into another world (or many worlds) for a while, simply taking in everything around them. There are no epic battles or thrilling races, no plot to follow or puzzles to solve. What there is is everything, and with Everything, it’s all within reach.