Let’s not beat around the bush. Everhood: Eternity Edition is brazenly influenced by Undertale, featuring similar kookie characters, the same dorky sense of humour, pixel art laid on predominantly black backgrounds, and an identical choice of font. There’s no disputing this whatsoever– “Is Everhood connected to Undertale?” is the top Google result.
It’s able to skirt around grounds for plagiarism, though, as it has its own gameplay mechanics, a somewhat different twist during the storyline, and a clear amount of effort has gone into both the pixel art and the large array of battle music – a mixture of speaker warbling EDM and techno. It’s a very different case to the recent Cuphead clone Enchanted Portals, which simply existed because the developers thought they’d stumbled on a get-rich-quick scheme.
Everhood begins with an introduction to Red, a wooden doll who’s in the process of having his arm stolen by a thieving gnome-like entity. During this opening, the narrator also promises that throughout Everhood, we’re going to discover three “absolute truths” that’ll leave us in astonishment. The combination of locating Red’s missing arm, and these supposed shocking truths, help this two-man developed experience to instantly engage.
The promise is also made of a weird and trippy adventure, and that promise is certainly kept – this isn’t something you’ll forget soon, with the screen often drenched in psychedelic colour schemes.
The first hour or so sees Red meeting the moderately-sized cast of returning characters – everything from talking fungi to a trio of vampires – which includes the chance to sit in on a role-playing board game session where even the talking save points are in cosplay. A jaunt in a town with a few nonsensical fetch quests to complete proves quite comical too. You’re also given plenty of time to acquaint yourself with the combat system, loosely described as rhythm action.
Battle screens resemble Guitar Hero/Rock Band et al, but instead of pushing buttons to the beat, you’re instead tasked with avoiding beams of light by either quick stepping or jumping out of harm’s way. Worry not if your reactions aren’t too hot – firstly, there are five lanes to leap into, so plenty of room to manoeuvre. You can pretty much count on one lane being slower than the rest. Secondly, the difficulty level can be adjusted, with a ‘story mode’ on hand that sees Red’s health bar recharge quickly. There are some challenges to overcome still, but this mode lives up to its name regardless.
Upon failing a battle, a retry option is presented – or you can return to the menu and reload a past save, with three slots available. Even the game itself advises to use all three slots in case you want to avoid a battle or reverse a decision.
Battles are pretty fun – the controls are responsive, and rivals are appropriately peculiar, blessed with expressive animations. The music, too, is genuinely excellent. Maybe not as memorable as Undertale’s Megalovania – which even the Pope has heard, I kid you not – but certainly worth turning the volume up for. Character dialogue, however, is a real mixed bag. A group of mages are central to the plot and each feels fleshed out, having their own personalities. In comparison, the rest of the cast has slight ‘2001 RPG NPC’ energy, conversing with truncated sentences.
The variety at hand is a highlight, with light puzzle solving, exploration, and a couple of mini-games here to induce variety. A few battles have twists too – quite literally, as the screen occasionally starts to spin, and sometimes a ‘fisheye’ filter is applied too.
Once Red is reunited with his arm, encountering the being who ordered it to be stolen, Everhood’s equivalent of Undertale’s Genocide/Pacifist twist occurs. I’ll try to go into more detail without spoiling anything. Essentially this twist occurs around halfway in, resulting in the game’s second half playing remarkably differently – with even the battle system seeing a shake-up. There’s more freedom here than before, and more guidance too. I was genuinely surprised by the number of prompts to prevent aimless wandering. And yes, there are several endings to discover. Four in the first playthrough – including a joke ending that involves walking down a corridor for hours – and another two to discover in New Game+. How to obtain some endings is obvious; others less so.
It took me around 7 hours to see my first conclusion, with a bit of hesitation halfway through about which path I should figuratively take. In addition to New Game+ and trying to find every ending, there’s also an Eternity Battle mode available from the main menu, which features new music from a bunch of renowned artists who’ve scored other indie titles, such as Fez, Shovel Knight, and The Messenger. Rare’s David Wise also provides his musical talents for a jazz number with colourful visuals, and a faux-retro space shooter can also be found. While the presence of online leaderboards is welcome, the scoring system seems harsh, penalising heavily for mistakes.
Everhood: Eternity Edition is perhaps a little too weird for its own good in places – making it hard to recommend to all and sundry – and could be seen as a little pretentious where the ‘absolute truths’ are concerned too. Nevertheless, it thoroughly entertains from start to finish, and it also features some thoughtful touches to make progression a breeze. The story, characters, and locations are all vivid and imaginative, helping it to stand out, and those wanting to see everything will find some amusing secrets to discover. I just hope in the upcoming sequel, the minor NPCs will have more worthwhile things to say.
Foreign Gnomes’ Everhood: Eternity Edition is out on PlayStation and Xbox formats on September 28th. It previous launched on PC and Switch. Published by BlitWorks Games.