Title: Ever Forward
Developer: Pathea Games
Release Date: August 13, 2020
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Pathea Games
I think puzzle games are best when they build up a narrative through design. As you overcome each challenge, you are rewarded with unlocking more pieces to a larger cinematic puzzle. It’s because of this that I felt compelled to play through the Pathea Games-developed Ever Forward. Thankfully, I discovered a genuinely unique adventure as I traveled deeper down the rabbit hole of this mysterious world.
Ever Forward slowly rolls out its narrative between puzzle and adventure segments. The story follows a girl named Maya as she finds herself, biting off a little more than she can chew. The world is in a state of unrest as a pandemic threatens humanity and forces everyone to stay indoors. However, Maya discovers that she is stuck between reality and a dream world as she assists her mom with finding a cure.
There’s definitely more to unpack here, but I’d hate to spoil it. What’s important is how the developers make it easy to care about Maya’s journey, as well as her relationship with her mom. Throughout the game’s rather short runtime, I found myself emotionally invested in these character’s lives. Once all the pieces fall in place, the trials you had to go through, make the conclusion well worth it.
Adventure segments have players take control of Maya and roam around a sort of HUB world where she can gain access to new levels. I appreciated the amount of detail that went into this world’s design, as it was effortless to navigate even without a map. Still, there’s not too much to do here outside of a few ways to interact with the world. I would have like exploration to be rewarded a little more so that there is something to do aside from puzzles.
When going into a level, the world completely changes, and Maya is taken to a distorted reality. She can fly around using her robot friend, where she can begin new puzzles. Each puzzle builds on itself by adding new elements and become more difficult the further you get in the game.
It’s not explicitly explained why Maya even has to do these puzzles from the get-go, but I didn’t mind that. After each level, more about Maya and her mom are revealed until you get a better understanding of what’s going on. It works as a means of story delivery, and there are a few twists thrown in that keep the narrative elements fresh.
The puzzle designs themselves are actually enjoyable. Sure, I had to stop sometimes and analyze what to do, but I was never totally stumped. Your own skills mirror the scale of puzzle difficulty, but after the developers teach you a new trick, they will find ways to test you.
Ever Forward has a few cool features that make the game more accessible. For one, you can save and load anywhere you’d like. This means that you can progress through a puzzle and save, so if you die, you aren’t thrown back to the beginning. There are also a few checkpoints in the longer puzzles in case you forget. Furthermore, players can skip puzzles to return to them later and not actually feel too rushed to get through them. There’s no time limit or pushy notifications to make you feel like you’re doing something wrong, but the game does offer hints in case you get stuck.
The overall design is charming. There’s a distinct difference in design depending on which environment you’re in. This makes the game feel more immersive and adds to the mystery. Maya’s design is also well made as her hair and dress flow with the player’s actions. One great feature is that each character is voiced, and the music tends to set the atmosphere for the adventure.
Ever Forward is a little on the short side, taking me around 3 hours to complete the main story. However, I didn’t feel like I wanted much more after I beat it. That’s not to say I wasn’t emotionally invested because I was, but I felt the pacing was well-timed to tell the story that the developers wanted to tell. However, the localization does come off a bit stale during some dialogue, and I felt that the team could have taken a few more liberties with the English text.
Ever Forward is a captivating and emotionally charged puzzle adventure that doesn’t overstay its welcome with puzzle difficulty as it naturally evolves across each level. Following Maya through this mysterious world was made easy thanks to the environment designs, pacing, and overall accessibility. Aside from some stale story translations, Ever Forward is a great way to spend an evening.
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