A young, black-haired girl, dressed in nothing but a white nightgown, walks barefoot along the beach. It looks relaxed and plays a little with the water. Suddenly it turns around suddenly. Something caught his attention, but there is nothing but sand, sea and stones. The child looks more closely and for a brief moment sees a vision or a dream. Before you know it, the appearance is gone again. Immediately afterwards, however, where an idyllic beach could just be seen, a broken, partially floating building can be seen. There is also a huge root there.
Like the house, it is pitch black, but covered with red-orange-glowing veins. After this mysterious introduction, we take control of the girl. Gripped by curiosity, we walk to the eerie place. But as we get closer to him, the picture suddenly becomes distorted and before we know it, we have landed in a new world. A world full of white rectangles in which tricky puzzles determine everyday life.
Without warning or explanation, we are thrown into the world of Ever Forward. The story about the young girl named Maya and her mother is, just like the opening sequence just described, very condensed and presented to you without much explanation. What you can infer: A catastrophe breaks out over the homeland of our characters and the attention of Maya's mother wanders away from her child and towards her work as a scientist. The action is driven forward with cut scenes showing Maya and her mother in their home. In these flashbacks, the figures are shown shimmering, while the surroundings are dark and poor in detail. We don't want to anticipate more about the story here. The story is entertaining, but predictable. As soon as the credits roll, hardly anyone is likely to be left untouched.
Source: PC Games
The pivotal point of the gameplay is the actually idyllic island, which is infested with black and red roots and full of destroyed buildings. This can be explored relatively freely, but there is not much to discover and the variety leaves a lot to be desired. A small lake with a sailing boat is one of the highlights. Sheets are an optional collector's item that gives us tips on the various tasks in the game. A bit annoying: The existence of the not too conspicuous foliage is not pointed out, we got through almost the entire game before we noticed them. collect in the island world. We also noticed the very late loading textures of trees, bushes and stones. In addition, many objects only pop up very late, which is detrimental to the otherwise well-made atmosphere. Anyway, musically it is nice, beautiful piano pieces accompany the action.
Puzzling puzzle design
Source: PC Games
If we approach one of the broken houses on the island, the game throws us into the mentioned world full of puzzles. Against an infinite horizon, we are racking our brains here. Compared to the island, this area is graphically much more minimalist and almost sterile, which is by no means meant negatively. Since there are hardly any shadows or details there, the late loading textures are not a problem. Despite the shortcomings on the island and technical problems: The style of the adventure is definitely an eye catcher. Incidentally, there are no piano pieces like on the island to be heard during the puzzles, but well-fitting, soft sounds.
Unfortunately, the head nuts aren't as fun as they could be. Often the problem is not finding a solution, but implementing the puzzle. The puzzles are always structured according to the same pattern – we have to get from point A to point B. But not alone. Without a small cube, which serves as a tool and key, the levels cannot be completed. Similar to Valve's game series Portal, we activate platforms, open gates, use teleportation tubes and avoid evil robots. The latter can kill us with one shot as soon as we come into their field of vision. They also react to noise, which we can use to mislead them. However, Maya automatically sneaks around our metallic opponents, which makes rapid movements impossible.
Source: PC Games
This is one of the reasons why Ever Forward can always be frustrating. The puzzles sometimes have to be solved within time limits or require us to react quickly, but our protagonist generally moves very slowly. It becomes particularly exhausting when gravity puzzles are added in the last third. Interacting under time pressure with blocks floating in the air while walking through the area at the pace of a snail on Valium can quickly become annoying. In short: too many puzzles are unfortunately not convincing. The game shows its strengths when you can comfortably puzzle and try out.
Ever Forward's difficulty level varies. In the beginning, the greatest challenge is knowing what is possible. The few tutorial overlays are hardly worth mentioning. Often there are also different possible solutions to achieve the goal. When you have finally looked through the general structure of the puzzles, which never changes drastically, many levels are only a weak challenge. But luckily not all of them, from time to time there are really tough puzzles that warm up the gray matter.
Ever Forward is currently on Steam for 14.99 euros available. In the fourth quarter of 2020, the title will also appear for the Nintendo Switch. When the puzzles will start on the PS4 and Xbox One is still unclear, but the puzzle adventure has also been announced for these two consoles. It takes about three hours to solve all the puzzles. At the release there are 18 pieces to solve, the repertoire is to be expanded later by ten head nuts via DLCs. If you are interested now, but don't want to spend 15 euros immediately, you can first catch the free demo on Steam.
I wish I could love it …
Ever Forward has so much potential. With the unconsumed graphic style and soulful story, developer Pathea could have created a real indie pearl. The gameplay around the frustrating puzzles prevents that, even though great puzzles crept in between them, which I was happy to break my head about. But at the latest because of the stressful puzzles with time pressure, I often lost the fun of the game. Especially the gravity puzzles at the end are one cramp. It's a shame, it could have been so good …
Without any explanation, we are thrown straight into the game in Ever Forward. (Source: PC Games)
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