Everhood — an RPG Where Rhythm Matters
Surreal environmental design and rhythmic combat help Everhood stand apart.
A Bizarre Take on the RPG Genre
The underlying rules of roleplaying games can often feel like they're set in stone. Decades after the first Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy were released, we're still seeing a slew of releases that employ the same fundamental mechanics and tell the same types of stories as those games released at the birth of the NES.
It's a fascinating take on the genre that subverts expectation in terms of both mechanics and narrative...
But the decreasing barrier to entry for game design means that there are a number of indie developers experimenting with the formula. Everhood joins Undertale in that regard. It's a fascinating take on the genre that subverts expectation in terms of both mechanics and narrative, but it still somehow manages to fit comfortably within the genre.
A Bit of That Earthbound Flavor
Earthbound broke expectations in the 1990s when it combined RPG tropes with a modern-day setting and bizarre enemies that included rockabilly greasers, animated fire hydrants, and otherworldly gods. The characters and plot in Everhood are equally bizarre.
You play the role of Red — a sentient doll who's had his hand stolen by a pig and needs to earn it back.
You play the role of Red — a sentient doll who's had his hand stolen by a pig and needs to earn it back. The plot that follows is surrealistic and driven as much by humor as by narrative necessity, and it doesn't translate particularly well to summary.
But while Everhood doesn't employ a traditional party-based system for combat, it does feature a cast of truly memorable characters. This is a game where the moment-to-moment experience is more important than a conventional narrative structure, but its cast breathes a whole lot of light into the overall experience.
Concept Rating: 4/5
Grimy, Jagged, and Surprisingly Catchy
The aesthetic of Everhood is something that you'll probably either love or hate. Stripped-down retro 2D pixel-art aesthetics have been in style for a long time now, but few developers have gone as self-consciously primitive with their graphics as Everhood.
The aesthetic of Everhood is something that you'll probably either love or hate.
The characters themselves have a lot of personalities that shines through even in their limited range of movement and the simplicity of their sprite-based designs. Outside of the characters, negative space tends to dominate the screen, and effects tend to play out as strobes and flashes. The results are impressionistic but subject to taste.
But it would be hard to argue against the quality of the music in this rhythm-focused game. Part of that is thanks to the anything-goes aesthetic of the game. Just as the characters draw from strange and diverse sources of inspiration, so too does the soundtrack. It manifests in everything from cacophonous metal to mellow jazz.
Just as the characters draw from strange and diverse sources of inspiration, so too does the soundtrack.
Throughout, it maintains a distinct chiptune aesthetic. If you were to strip out everything else about the game, the soundtrack alone would be worth the investment. The sound effects can't quite match the quality of the musical soundtrack, but that would be a hard bar to meet in the first place.
Graphics & Audio Rating: 3.5/5
Dance-Dance RPG Evolution
It's fortunate that the music is good because it's critical to Everhood's core gameplay experience. That's because — like Crypt of the Necrodancer before it — Everhood melds archaic RPG fundamentals with rhythm-based challenges. And those rhythmic challenges constitute the main event for combat.
Everhood melds archaic RPG fundamentals with rhythm-based challenges.
Everhood is tonally very similar to the breakout hit Undertale, but it's mechanically similar as well. Combat breaks down into an experience that resembles a mix of a top-down shooter and a traditional rhythm game. The learning curve here is steep.
While it resembles elements that many players will be familiar with, it mixes them together in ways that can initially feel alien. Even for people who have natural rhythm, getting the tempo just right could take some getting used to.
Combat requires finesse, and it requires a decent ability to think ahead.
If you do take the time to learn, you'll find a satisfying core experience. Combat requires finesse, and it requires a decent ability to think ahead. But advanced players will learn to instinctively read the environment based on flashes and audio cues.
Gameplay Rating: 3.5/5
An RPG Wreathed in the Strange
As an experiment, Everhood is a phenomenal example of how a developer can stretch out existing genre standards and bring about results that look like nothing else on the market. The music and mechanics blend together seamlessly with the light show effects to create an experience that's wholly unique.
But some might find parts of the experience grating. The intentionally rough aesthetics could be deemed ugly by many standards, and the story itself requires a pretty high tolerance for the surrealistic. But if you can look past those elements, you'll find an odd little gem that stands apart from practically everything else out there.