I found it amusing when the “about this game” description for Everhood stated “expect the unexpected.” Fortunately, I have played (and reviewed) the very game Everhood is heavily influenced by: the cult classic Undertale. (Is it a classic now that it’s been five years ago?) So a little spoiler to myself, I knew a little of what I was going to expect reviewing this game.
In Everhood, you take control of a wooden doll dressed in a crimson robe that its arm gets stolen by a thief. Who is this thief? Why steal the arm? Where are you? What is your purpose? With so many questions, there will be so many convoluted answers you will get by trying to get back the arm.
The world is filled with strange characters, most providing cryptic messages of what the red doll’s story is about. Unfortunately, for most of the first half of the game, you are thrust upon dialogue and narrative that will not make sense to you. However, as soon as you get to the second half, it will make sense (just a little) and you’ll figure out what to do next.
Everhood, like its inspiration, boasts a few endings based on the decisions the red doll makes. If you have played Undertale, two of the endings are fulfilled in the exact manners. While I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t played Undertale, just know that the characters you meet along the way, whether you may think they are good, bad, silly, or unnecessary are essential for which ending you will get.
Touted as an “unconventional RPG,” the only conventional RPG element you will find in Everhood is the hit point. I wouldn’t even call this an RPG; in fact, this is more of an adventure RPG like a Zelda game. There are no gaining experience to level up, no random encounters to battle, and no equipment and magic to hoard. There are a few pieces of equipment the red mage will obtain during its journey, two of which are a sword for deflecting attacks and secret one that is obviously full of spoilers.
The battles in Everhood are something else. The best way I can describe it is that it is like a rhythmic shmup. In the major first half of the game, you will have to avoid the enemies’ attacks with a combination of jumping and sidestepping until the beat is done. An attack that hits you will obviously lower your hit points and losing all of it will result in a game over. You will regenerate some hit points, however, if you are able to not get hit after a period of time.
After progressing a bit of the story, you will gain access to the sword. This allows you to lower enemies’ hit points by deflecting their attacks back to them. This new element of the battles obviously adds to the task of avoiding their attacks still, since there are some attacks that cannot be deflected.
The problem I found is that sometimes trying to distinguish between what attacks are deflectable can be the difference between a game over and getting a victory. For a game to want you to expect the unexpected, the battles aren’t always so cut-and-dried. Battles will most often likely do weird things like spin the battlefield around or let enemies’ attacks teleport around.
It also doesn’t help that Everhood recommends hard (the difficulty just above the hardest one) as the initial difficulty. That’s insane, especially for casual or those who aren’t into shmups. In this difficulty, three consecutive hits are all it takes to be defeated and the regeneration rate is slow. Fortunately, the game allows for easy and story-centric difficulties that are more forgiving and can be switched in-game easily.
Everhood is a game that really pays homage to Undertale from its art style to its story. It almost seems like the difference between the two is its battle system and less reliance on the conventional RPG elements. Any cult fan of Undertale will most likely enjoy this title, and it’ll give them a hit of nostalgia, since the way of fulfilling at least two of the endings is just like killing and mercy.
This review is based on a retail copy provided by the publisher.
Recover the Red Doll's Stolen Arm
+ Shmup and rhythm game combined + Heavily inspired by Undertale