Before reviewing Everhood Eternity Edition, I hadn’t heard of it before. I like to think that I keep up with game chatter, and have a finger close to the pulse of what’s considered good or not. I’m a games journalist after all. But Everhood and its Eternity Edition have never come up, and I wanted to know why. Because this is an absolute gem, a textbook cult game in the making, and I just can’t believe that the world has collectively chosen to ignore it.
I’ve got some theories. When it first launched on other systems, it seems like it had a rocky technical road. There was persistent lag and some loading screens that stuck around forever. It was also loaded with typos, apparently, which made it hard to understand what’s going on. But none of these are present in Everhood Eternity Edition. That ‘Eternity Edition’ is presumably shorthand for ‘we kicked the bugs’ asses and now we’ve got a better game’.
Another theory is that, back in 2021 when Everhood first came out, it was just a little too close in proximity to Undertale. Because there are some clear parallels between the two games. This has that classic forced perspective, a cast of eccentric monsters with very human issues, and a habit of twisting combat into minigame-like shapes. Perhaps it got dismissed as an Undertale clone. Which is wrong, because it’s so much more than that. But hey, regressive comparisons are easy to make.
We’d like to set the record straight: Everhood Eternity Edition is a game that gets us reaching for the ‘one of the X of the year’ plaudits. It’s one of the most inventive games of the year, perhaps nestling just behind Inscryption. It’s one of the funniest games of the year, meting out both clever and juvenile jokes at an equal pace. And when it finds its stride, when music, story and character are all at peak synchronicity, it can create some of the most memorable moments of the year. Frankly, this is a must buy.
We should probably do it the service of describing it. Everhood Eternity Edition is the story of Red, a doll who wakes up crumpled on the floor without an arm. That arm has been stolen by a dwarven thief, and you’re damned if you’re going to let him get away with it. So you give chase, but he’s nimble and manages to get it to Gold Pig, the main bad guy of Everhood. He wants the arm for his collection, and uses his Infinity Gauntlet-copying weapon to manhandle you into an incinerator. You seem done for, until you’re brought back to life – again – by some kind of existential being.
This is the cue for an Odyssian adventure that encompasses the many henchmen that Gold Pig sends after you, multiple weirdo locations, and plenty of endearing and misshapen characters who turn up repeatedly, as if they’re a fanclub who’s tagging along. Once you get past the opening moments, the structure is a little hub-and-spokey, as you travel through doors to locations and come back with bits and pieces that can open up more doors and new chains of locations.
It’s all an absolute joy* to explore, with that asterisk being a qualifier that it can be dark, horrific, unsettling, unexpected and surreal in various measures. This isn’t the easy play that Undertale often was: this is one that keeps you on edge. And that’s only enhanced by the possibility that combat is around the corner. That combat isn’t something that you can half-play in a relaxed daze.
In most instances, combat is a rhythm action game. Except, this being Everhood Eternity Edition, the rhythm actioning is inverted. You’re not trying to hit the beats; you are attempting to avoid them. Like the bullet-hell of a shoot ’em up, your opponent is firing volleys of bullets and soundwaves to the music, and your job is to avoid them.
That’s simple enough, as you have a quick-as-a-flash sidestep with the analogue stick, and a jump that skips you over the low-flying beats. But my gosh do the beats come at a ridiculous, DragonForce-like pace. It can feel impossible, as they rush headlong towards you with barely a millimetre gap for you to sneak into. But Everhood Eternity Edition has your back in many different ways. There’s a generous health system, which regens as long as you’re not hit again within a few seconds. You get some immunity frames that mean you don’t get hit repeatedly, and a difficulty slider can be prodded whenever you want. Plus – and we see you doing it, Everhood Eternity Edition – the game dynamically shifts difficulty when it thinks you’re not looking. We know what you’re doing, Foreign Gnomes.
It’s madcap, thrilling stuff, made all the more tense by the wave pattern shifting constantly and in real-time. You can’t memorise the attack patterns as there’s not much of a pattern to memorise. Plus, this isn’t a party game: you’re playing each opponent once and then the story is barreling onwards. In some instances, if you fail, that’s it: the game continues down its own branching path. You have to live in the moment, and that’s both exciting and terrifying.
But what makes these combat sequences so gripping is how they seem to cover every human sense. The ears are absolutely treated by the bombastic big-beat soundtrack, delivered by greats like Chipzel and David Wise. They lean heavily on to dubstep-like drops to make the songs surging, percussive beasts. The eyes are given a workout by suddenly shifting perspectives (combat becomes slightly more difficult when you’re spinning round in a circle, or the controls are inverted) and musical visualisations that feel like they’re burning subliminal messages into your brain. And we felt the hearts thrumming in our chest, as this is all done at breakneck speeds. It’s testament to the balancing that we completed so many levels by a whisker, holding onto the last red pixels of our health bar.
If there are flaws it’s in the story, which is so surreal and flighty that it can often feel more like walking into an improv comedy routine than a carefully constructed narrative. We suspect that the packaged in extra missions are only making this more of a problem: we found ourselves in a long Dungeons & Dragons adventure, halfway through, and we suspected this digression was added in last minute. The last moments of Everhood Eternity Edition also demand that you care for characters who are more like cameos through the course of the game. There’s simply not enough investment in the characters for this to work, so we half-shrugged and played on. We don’t think that was the designers’ intention.
But who cares when Everhood Eternity Edition is so kaleidoscopic, a macabre Fantasia that massages the eyes, ears and nerves. Nobody is talking about it but everybody should: it’s a cult hit in the making, and now’s your chance to be the one who says ‘I played it before it was cool’.