Next in our series of selected games from Extra Credit’s Indie Game Megaphone, I’ve chosen the mysterious Everhood by Chris Nordgren and Jordi Roca; a game which promises an ineffable tale of an inexpressible world, played through rhythmic battles. Though I don’t have much experience with rhythm games, this description suggests exactly the type of weird universe I want to explore right now. I had to investigate.
Dodge the Beat
Before we get into the esoteric world of Everhood, let’s take a look at the gameplay. You might be familiar with rhythm games like Guitar Hero, where bars representing musical notes flow down the screen which must be hit with precise timing to keep the song up. On the surface, Everhood’s boss battles are visually similar. Each boss has a different song for you to beat with various bars or blocks representing the music, however here’s where the crucial difference lies – you must avoid the music.
Where games like Guitar Hero have you play the fantasy of being in a band, Everhood has you dodging attacks from strange foes. The demo only allows you to side step and jump over these attacks, but the trailer offers a glimpse of the future, where you’ll eventually be able to repel the notes with a sword. Staying alive is easier said than done, of course. You have three blocks of health and you lose one every time you’re hit. Go long enough without taking damage and health will regenerate. Luckily, some of the longer fights come with handy checkpoints.
As expected, the boss battles increase in difficulty as you progress, but that’s not the only variation. New mechanics get thrown in as you go along, some of which will reappear in future fights. This starts off simple enough. Dodge or jump the bars. Vertical blocks can only be side-stepped. Then you’ll come across mechanics, specific to bosses. During the last phase of a dance off with a ghoul, he loses both his composure and his sunglasses, leading him to attack you with laser eyes!
Without spoiling the end of the demo, I can say that the things this game will throw at you escalate to insanity. Not in terms of difficulty, but in sheer ‘what is happening’ mechanics. Each fight adds something unexpected. Vague, I know, but it really is best experienced for yourself.
If you think you don’t have the reflexes for a game like this, don’t worry. There is an Easy difficulty setting to choose from, and I found that practice was more important than quick fingers. I played the demo on Normal difficulty and there wasn’t a level I could beat, in one go. This is the kind of game which rewards you for clicking ‘Retry’ again and again, until your inevitable victory.
Ineffable is Right
The story of Everhood is filled with weirdness and humour. It starts with a cryptic introduction from disembodied voices, artfully done as text on a kaleidoscopic background, apparently directed at the player. Agree to abandon your humanity, accept immortality, and you wake up as the player character: Red. By wake up, I mean your dismembered limbs, which were scattered in a small glade, come together to form a sentient wooden doll with a red cape. Well, almost all your limbs make it. Before your awakening, a figure in blue stole your right arm. This is the object of your quest.
The bulk of the demo takes place in the nightclub you tailed the blue thief to. Entry isn’t free, but fortunately there’s an ATM nearby. It’s too bad the ATM wants your soul. Cue the boss battle! This is just one example of how Everhood isn’t just a simple sequence of fights. Situations arise in unexpected ways. When you get into the club, you’ll eventually find yourself in a room full of parodied monsters, any one of which could have been the next villain to slay if this were another game. In Everhood, most of the monsters are friendly, the streetlamps are cheerful savepoints and there is a sense of uneasiness in the world.
The rabbithole which was this demo was not long enough for me. I wanted to go deeper. I wanted answers. I wanted my arm back! The demo’s finale ended with a mind-blowing taste of what the game had to offer and I cannot wait to get my hands on the full game.
If you want to try out the demo for yourself, head over to the official website. On their Steam page you’ll also find a link to their Discord — a lively place, where fans share their theories on what the heck is going on here and the devs answer questions from the community. It might just tide me over until my next surreal trip into the world of Everhood.