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August 2021

Ever Forward

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Adventure
Developer: Pathea Games
Release Date: Aug. 13, 2020


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Switch/PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Ever Forward'

by Cody Medellin on June 4, 2020 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Ever Forward is a 3D adventure puzzle game. It tells the story of a girl, Maya, who is lost in a strange world somewhere between reality and imagination.

For a while, the atmospheric puzzle game has been a favorite of indie developers. Some have concentrated on the puzzle parts, creating truly brain-melting conundrums, others have used the genre to tell interesting tales. Ever Forward falls into the latter category, and based on what we've seen with a recent demo build, the approach works.

You play the role of a little girl named Maya, who is accompanied by a flying robot cube. The game starts you off on a beach, and although you aren't given clear directions, your instincts tell you to go toward a burned-out patch of land. Doing so takes you from the idyllic beachscape to a more sterile white space full of cubes and switch-based puzzles. Solving the puzzles will show cut scenes that give you a glimpse into Maya's other world before starting the cycle anew.

It only takes one sequence to figure out that the beachscape is Maya's dream world, and the real world is where Maya and her mother are represented by stardust silhouettes. The puzzle world acts as the intermediary between both sides. Whereas the dream world is beautiful and inviting, the real world is painted in darker shades because of a specter of loneliness. Her mother is present but constantly gets called in to work on something important that she can't skip. While Maya is understanding and her mother tries her best, the lack of attention stings, and it is made worse by the fact that there's a pandemic that is forcing people to stay at home. The timing of this demo may be coincidental, but considering how well this lines up with what's been going on recently, that part of the story is eerie for a non-horror game.

With the narrative being very interesting once you delve deeper, the puzzle aspects have to carry the rest of the game, and they do a pretty good job thus far. The puzzles are simple in that you're trying to deliver a cube from point A to point B, but the game adds in some roadblocks along the way. For starters, there are a bunch of switches that need to be manipulated in order to spawn more blocks or deactivate red laser gates. The former becomes important, since the spawn locations only produce one block at a time, disintegrating the old block from that spot once a new one comes into play. The other hazard comes from robots that zap you once they spot you, and they're very sensitive to sound; jumping is enough to draw their attention to you.

As such, the majority of the puzzles combine switch manipulation with the ability to distract robots so you don't die. Those worried about stealth will be glad to know that Maya automatically goes into sneak mode when she is near a robot, but some may dislike the fact that you don't have full control over when sneaking begins and ends. The puzzles are tricky and a bit frustrating in a good way, since there seem to be fluid solutions to how you can solve each puzzle. The sequences aren't overly long; most of the time, you get through one puzzle before you reach another cut scene, but the game is generous enough to give you the ability to set instant checkpoints anywhere you want.

As far as presentation goes, Ever Forward looks quite nice. The dreamy beachscape and accompanying valleys are reminiscent of The Witness due to the lush colors and almost painting style to the foliage. The mixing of digital distortions when near a puzzle point is a nice touch, and it is gorgeous whether you're seeing it in still pictures or in motion. The puzzle worlds hold that same sort of captivation despite being dressed in stark white tones, but it illuminates the red and blue lights emitted by the bots. The real world's darker color tones do a good job of conveying how sad things are and make the stardust characters stand out even more. As for the sound, the limited soundtrack does its job as far as setting up the right mood for each situation, while the use of Chinese as the spoken language may throw off some people at first.

There is a playable demo for Ever Forward out now, and with the game releasing in a month, it gives you a good idea of whether this is going to be your thing. The demo's progress carries over into the full game, so you don't need to start over when the full game launches. Just be warned that if the developer's estimates are correct, the demo stops roughly 40% of the way into the title, so if you're intrigued enough to purchase the game, be prepared for a puzzle experience that's on the shorter side.

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