Walking the Line
In very few fantasy adventure games would one expect to run across a disciplinarian granny with a taste for whips, handcuffs, sensually scented incense, and a bondage teddy bear. Even more disturbing, old grandma seems a little too eager to ply visitors (particularly young men) with a free “massage.” While the stomach churning imagery fortunately treads just short of truly crossing the boundaries of decency, it’s exactly this kind of unexpected wackiness that saves Everlight of Magic & Power from being a complete bust. A little spice never hurts, particularly when most other aspects of a game closely border on the generic.
Magic is a crucial ingredient in a world where fantasy runs amuck. Under the pretense of searching for his own inner magic, the protagonist in Everlight finds himself engaging in an unusual series of challenges in a realm that’s fairly mundane during the daylight hours yet completely off the hook when the sun sets. There’s plenty of medieval flavor and mysticism scattered in amongst the quasi-Harry Potter vibe. However, that’s not what makes it different or special.
The setup for what turns out to be a nominally engaging yet relatively amusing adventure is unceremonious and slapdash. Melvin – a kid who looks a little too much like Daniel Radcliff for his own good – walks into a candle shop on a wet dreary day. There he meets a wildly buck-toothed shopkeeper fellow who claims to be a “magician” and entices the boy, through a parlor trick involving three small cups and a magic flame, to become one himself. Soon after, Melvin is teleported to the unusual and magical town of Tallen where he must help the residents there escape from the clutches of a curse that causes them to let their hair down and get a little wild in the nighttime hours. This is accomplished by facing your own fears, of course – and by running a whole lot of errands.
Tallen is an unusual village to say the least. By day, citizens go about their normal business; when night falls, they give in to their dark desires – gambling, lust, thievery, drinking, and so forth. Humorously, the curse causes them to have no recollection of their nocturnal experiences. After saving his spiritual guide Fiona (an “elf” that’s actually a fairy), Melvin is informed he must simultaneously help the ailing citizenry and overcome his five personal fears (of failure, loneliness, disappointment, fear itself, and death).
In most regards, Everlight is a typical specimen of the long-running adventure game genre. It’s a little light on the puzzle work, heavy on tedious dialogue trees, and rife with context sensitive item use. Much of Melvin’s time is spent roaming around chatting folks up and doing tasks for them to eventually get something in return. You’ll be nabbing plenty of odd items, but it’s often hard to figure out what to do with them, since you’ll sometimes pick them up well before they’re needed.
The point-and-click controls work as they should. Fortunately, you won’t have to do much pixel hunting, thanks to a few hotkeys that allow you to highlight all the hotspots in a given area or just the important ones you can directly interact with. The game’s most interesting mechanic – transitioning between day and night at whim – serves as the foundation for much of the game’s puzzle solving. You’ll often have to flit back and forth to hunt for clues and interview folks to figure out how to proceed. It provides an entertaining contrast between personalities of various characters when they’re acting normal or in the throes of the curse. To keep from getting hopelessly stuck, you’ll have to rely on conversations with the sarcastic Fiona who serves as the in-game hint system. Unfortunately, her consultation is sometimes mandatory in order to proceed in certain puzzles.
While the characters leave something to be desired, the town of Tallen contains some pleasantly detailed scenery to behold. The different areas of the village and beyond are easy to navigate and offer a solid variety of locations to explore. The fantasy vibe works well here, and the environments are generally visually stimulating and crisp. Transitioning between day and night offers some amusing surprises in terms of story and visuals. Characters, on the other hand, are stiffly animated and awkward at times. Also, most of the generic cast falls into one of many all-too-familiar archetypes. In most cases, their designs aren’t too shabby. Still, there are a few characters that would benefit from some additional visual work. They tend to drag the overall graphical experience down slightly, due to their datedness.
A playful, thematic musical score adds a whimsical layer to the adventure, which helps to properly establish the fantasy element pervading the game. The voice acting is rather good, but you’ll often find what character’s are saying to be horribly uninteresting at best. Dialogue often runs on for way too long without anything particularly substantive being said. Sadly, it’s best to turn on the subtitles, read ahead of the conversation, and skip through as quickly as possible. The occasionally bawdy humor mixed into dialogue tends to lean more heavily towards an attempt at shock value rather than real wit, and it will likely be a bit much for some players. The game’s few funny moments tend to come in the form of unexpected weirdness. It was difficult to suppress a brief chuckle at one citizen (upstanding by day) who turned into a sword wielding maniac roaming the town square at night uttering phrases like “must…kill.” The previously mentioned granny incident was more unsettling than funny, but some will enjoy the unusual antics found throughout the game.
It seems Everlight struggles to break free from the generic mold it was cast in. It does so with limited success and manages to deliver some admittedly good gaming moments in the process. The game’s quirkier content scattered will be a turnoff to some players, but it does keep things from getting too boring and will possibly appeal to the teen audience its geared toward. There are certainly better fantasy adventure titles to be had, but Everlight has enough going for it to make it worth a try.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.6 Graphics
Environments are stronger than the character design. Visually, it’s a good fantasy vibe. 3.6 Control
There’s nothing particularly complicated about pointing and clicking. Hotspot-revealing hot keys make exploration in Everlight a breeze. 3.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The audio score adds to the mystery of the setting. Voice work is good, despite the dialogue itself quickly becoming dreary. 3.3 Play Value
For those with an interest in fantasy adventure games, there’s enough here to make it worth a solid playthrough. Beyond that, you’ll want to move on. 3.5 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.