Ever Forward Review | Review – The Digital Fix

Ever Forward is the latest release from indie studio Pathea, whose games so far range from the farming simulator My Time at Portia to adventure game Planet Explorers. Trying something new again, Ever Forward is a 3D puzzle game, where the player controls Maya, a young girl whos trying to untangle imagination from memories.

The game does a good job at hooking you in, introducing you to an idyllic island, complete with white sand, lush looking grassy banks, and a bright blue sky. But before long you find strange crumbled houses with electric red lights that look ominously out of place. Through these you are transported to the puzzle levels.

The puzzles are deceptively simple. The goal is to move a cube from the beginning of the puzzle to the end. But of course, there are obstacles in your way. The main problem you face in the majority of the levels are sentry robots called roundies that, when stationary, face in one direction with a fairly short range of sight. However, upon detection they gain stronger senses and start spinning around in an attempt to catch you, at which point you lose.

The main mechanic of the game is tricking these robots into looking the wrong way so that you can sneak past, which can be done by throwing things or jumping and running off. It may not sound tricky, and for the first few puzzles its not. Then the layouts become harder, you spend longer trying to work out what youre supposed to do, and then even longer doing it.

The main problem I had with the game was a dissonance between knowing how to complete a puzzle and actually being able to do it. In a lot of instances the controls are too clunky for the precise timings the game wants from you - Maya moves really slowly, especially when climbing onto platforms, and you also dont get to decide when she does and doesnt sneak which leads to some frustrating instances where she suddenly stops. I love a good puzzle, but the fun for me is in the working it out. Knowing what to do, but not actually being able to do led to a couple of moments of being so frustrated, I definitely wasnt having fun.

Luckily, the game does have a fail safe, in the form of a handy little mechanic that lets you place checkpoints whenever, and wherever you want. This is helpful when youre required to perform multiple, tricky, well-timed movements. When youve finally completed one, youre safe in the knowledge you can put a checkpoint down and if (or more likely, when) the next part goes wrong, you wont have to do the whole puzzle again.

The narrative is also compelling enough to make you want to continue playing, rather than just closing the game out of frustration and never coming back to it. After completing each puzzle, you unlock one of Mayas memories. Theyre played out with glowing, dreamlike figures as we learn the story of Maya and her Mother in some sort of apocalyptic situation where no one is allowed outside their homes. The scenes get progressively more worrying as things take a dark turn. Towards the end of the game as the puzzles were at their hardest, this was a particularly great incentive to continue. The sense of danger also translated into the puzzles, which in turn got more confusing, but wanting to know if Maya was okay became imperative.

Lastly, Ever Forward is stunning. The graphics are simple but extremely pretty, and its clear that a lot of thought has gone into creating the games environments. The peaceful island contrasts the clinical puzzle levels, and yet as the game progresses the two merge together, and as they fuse with Mayas distress everything becomes darker and more confusing. The change never feels sudden however, instead theres a smooth descent into the chaos and gravity defying problems in the last few puzzles.

This is a great little puzzle game, and if you can live with the extreme frustration that occurs at a few points, its a worthwhile experience. Helping Maya unravel her memories from her imagination provides a great narrative, whilst the puzzles themselves are mostly satisfying and well made. The game is also beautiful, creating a true sense of relief when you find yourself back on that beautiful grassy island after spending half an hour getting zapped by vindictive little robots.

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Ever Forward Review | Review - The Digital Fix

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