Most children have phenomenal imaginary lives. Who has not played make-believe as a kid? Ever Forward tackles this theme with the whole game centered on the main character’s fictitious world. Ever Forward is the latest game developed by Pathea Games. They are well-known for their game Planet Explorers, but what most people will remember them from is their superb farming simulator My Time at Portia. This latest game is vastly different from their usual work. Ever Forward is a 3D adventure/puzzle game with a sentimental narrative.
Ever Forward follows the journey of Maya. She is a young girl with an overactive imagination. Maya is caught in a dreamlike world midway between reality and her own imagination. At first sight it appears to be an idyllic environment. There are charming grassy slopes, beautiful unblemished beaches and overall delightful landscapes. Nevertheless, once she starts exploring this picturesque location, she notices that not everything is as it seems. The more young Maya delves into this world, the more evidence of corruption she begins to notice. Some sections of these bucolic surroundings have been corrupted with an evil that is slowly taking over. Alone and scared she realizes that something is not right and she sets out to piece together the secrets of this strange world, but to do that she will have to first confront her fears.
The artwork is lovely and creates a compelling atmosphere. The graphics are used to create several distinct worlds. There is Maya’s imaginary world which is created using pastel colors whereas the puzzle scenes are mostly white with splashes of bright color producing a very cold ambiance. Then there also the cutscenes which are darker and utilize more subdued colors. Overall this creates a dark and foreboding atmosphere. I like how the developers constructed very distinct world with specific aesthetics for each one. It helps to instill each space with its own emotional experience. One is a fantastical pastel world, the kind of world a little girl would imagine where everything is possible and you can just wander and appreciate the gorgeous atmosphere. The puzzle one is full of angles and technology. It is very clinical and minimalistic looking. Then of course there are the cutscenes with their terribly dark ambiance. Those cutscenes really make the player perceive young Maya’s anxiety and feeling of dread. All of those locations work in perfect counterpoint with each other. The soundtrack is also quite good and reflects the emotions perfectly.
Ever Forward’s story is surprisingly emotional which I did not expect before playing. It is told in fragments throughout the game. After every solved puzzle, we are shown a short cutscene from Maya’s memories. The player is eventually able to piece together Maya’s story through each fleeting memory. It is a simple narrative, yet it is also emotional and has a lot of depth.
Ever Forward does an okay job of teaching the mechanics, but it is very unequal. Some mechanics are particularly well explained while others are merely glossed over and never explained in an efficient manner. In the end the player is left to their own devices when it comes to certain aspects of the game. The gameplay is uncomplicated, but the strategies to solve the puzzles are where it gets more complex. Maya is helped on her journey by a CPQ, a cubic robot. This CPQ lets Maya fly around her imaginary world. Maya also uses the CPQ as a key to unlock puzzles and as a tool to solve them. The puzzles all follow the same pattern. There is the robot’s “guard” which she has to evade. They emit a bluish light which is the space Maya has to avoid. Those round robots are highly sensitive to sound so caution is required when Maya is around them. When she walks close to them Maya automatically sneaks around by slowing down and becoming very quiet. There is also another kind of a robot that disintegrates anything that gets too close. As soon as Maya or an object goes into the vicinity of this robot a red light appears and it instantly annihilates them. To make matter more complicated the robots can move in a circular motion. There are some variations and some different features, but it is essentially how the puzzles are constructed.
One interesting aspect in Ever Forward is the ability of the protagonist to create her own save points. It is quite handy to be able to create your own save points so you can have one right before starting a puzzle or a particularly tough sections. It saves you having to restart sections that you already solved. The counter-balance to this feature is that the last save point you have added is the only one you can go back to. I would have liked to have the choice of which save point to go back to. The puzzles are rather intricate and well thought out. Some of them even have several possible solutions. That is an impressive addition that gives Ever Forward replayability. The progression however is not always consistent. You would expect the puzzles to get increasingly difficult as you play. You might encounter two or three easier puzzles and then out of the blue you will come across an incredibly difficult puzzle. This can become utterly frustrating. There is a hint system that consists of collecting leaves while you are on the island and using these to request a hint when you are stuck. Unfortunately the hints are not always the most helpful.
The solution to a lot of the puzzles rests mostly on timing. Some of them require perfect timing which can get tiring. The protagonist has a normal walking pace, however as soon as she picks something up her pace then becomes painfully slow. As an example there was a puzzle to which I had found the solution, but the protagonist was so slow that I kept getting caught by the robot. The window to get from point A to point B was so precise that only a fraction of a second longer was enough to miss this window. Subsequently I had to start over several times to get the timing exactly right. The puzzles themselves are quite ingenious and the presentation is beautiful, but Maya’s walking pace is a hindrance that is enough to ruin the experience at times. I love a challenge, but not the frustration created by the combination of a puzzle that requires perfect timing and a protagonist that walks like a snail.
Ever Forward has a marvelous presentation, beautiful visuals and a chilled mellow soundtrack. The puzzles are for the most part challenging and skillfully designed although the slow walking pace of the protagonist create some unnecessarily frustrating moments. There are some innovative mechanics and a touching narrative that manages to redeem the game. I will tentatively recommend it, but only for fans of the genre. For anyone else it might not live up to the hype.
Written by Vee