*As I promised myself a few days ago, here’s the analysis about Eversion.
1 Brief Introduction of the game
Eversion is a single player, puzzle-oriented platformer*. The player-controlled little floral creature moves around the screen to solve puzzles and discover the secrets of the intentionally separated/layered objects inside the world, then (eventually) reach the destination/ending(s), by running, jumping and switching – or, actually, everting – among different layers of the world at some preset spots.
* Some people treat platformers as jumping puzzles, while they can actually present a lot of different genres’ features or overlap several sub-divisions, to me they are still more action games, and my discussion is based on my own opinion.
2 Some notes from my playtest
Below are some in and post-test notes from a 8 hour play with all 14 achievements unlocked (the last one was done with the help of a spoiler…).
a) Fortunately or unfortunately, I had no idea what’s ‘Eversion’ or ‘evert’, I mean, literally. Also for testing purpose I intentionally avoided all the information I could have got about the game before the test, except its title and price. So when I saw ‘press evert’ at the menu, I totally have no idea what’s that and event thought it could be an informal name of “enter”…anyway, as a non-professional gamer I usually just start a game and try to have an overview of it before go to the control menu, so I tried the common ones started with enter and X…and I didn’t get the chance to give space a shot.
b) Then, as the game started, my first impression is —- SUPER MARIO!!! Even the arrangement of tests-”score”, “gem”, “world 1-1”…is really recognizable, just no timer.
After having finished the game for a while, however, I got the feeling that the designer might did this on purpose – implying the basic control is quite the same with Mario-which could possibly reduce the learning curve, while setting a trap, like it also has the same skill-centric gameplay-which turned out later in the game, not at all.
c) While testing the controlling, I also tried to differentiate the platforms, ground and background – that is to say, those collidable and non-collidable objects. Maybe because I play puzzle games very often, so I become quite sensitive with those tricks – I felt the clouds look like platforms so that I tried really hard to jump on them, although this time they were just transparent so I could only fail – this mistakenly confirmed my idea that this was just a normal platformer. Then when I first saw that the flowers were not collidable just decorations and trees are somehow firm, I began to thought the design was a little disordered. Also, combined with the problemetic collision, the Mario-look set up did a really good job and made me quite confused when facing the former puzzles – I really enjoy puzzle games but somehow not very into platformers (except Mario!), of course platformers could be considered as jumping puzzles, as theoretically every game could be treated as a puzzle – just should I test my mental memory or my muscle memory?
BUT, after I figured out what is evert and got the idea of the game, (almost) everything became clear, related and reasonable.
d) After looking around the screen, testing what I could/couldn’t do, I spent some time looking at the controls and found X and space are for “evert”, which was the word on the title screen, then finally looked it up in dictionary. However, because of the “Mario” idea, i supposed it as some ability that I’d get after I found a “mushroom” or “flower”. If it’s not because I accidentally pressed X with Z while jumping at the certain screen , it would take me much longer to find the hidden spot where I was supposed to evert through.
Of course, the designer actually set up a few signs for the player surrounded the evert spot-mixed back ground colors and musics – very inharmonious composition – to make player very uncomfortable when steps closer to it – and it’s really just like saying:”There’s some problem.” BUT, that’s for puzzle games, which means player is expecting this to be a puzzle game and willing to solve it as a puzzle, rather than an art/music style of the game that conveying the designer’s expression or even a technical issue or bug. Until then, the expectation I’d built up didn’t make me treat it as a puzzle…anyway, I discovered the spot accidentally so I’ll never know what could have happened.
No matter what’s the coincidence, I got the basic as well as the main mechanics of Eversion – by everting, the expression of things/the presenting layer of the world/the effect of interacting with the same object changes.
e) As getting to know the core mechnics of the game, all the things I just doubted turned to be reasonable – clouds, trees, flowers, etc. They switch between different forms – collidable or not, harmful or not, breakable or not, killable or not – and so as making up the (solutions of the) puzzles. The way that the puzzles are set up makes the switches meaningful and inevitable. For example, at the level 1 where I first encountered the evert spot, I had to evert to the second layer of the world where the clouds turned into solid so I could get all the gems, then when moving forward I needed to go back to the first layer otherwise I would be knocked down into the gap by the cloud floating above it.
Or like during later levels, the higher platforms require those unkillable monsters as spring boards to pass multiple ultrahigh platforms. Player should have learnt in previous levels that monsters could be used as spring boards, and right before this level it has been revealed that monsters in the last layer are unkillable, while could be immobilized for a while. So theoretically player just needs to understand how to combine those two features to solve the single solution mini-puzzle and reach the hidden evert spot (no circle indication when press X) – which is actually a little too simple as a puzzle in the last level. However, the real challenge is mastering the jumping skill and the find the correct timing – key elements in platformers, based on the problematic collision which makes the platformer – not the puzzles – hard.
Almost all the puzzles in Eversion are set up in this way – meaningful, reasonable but inevitable and linear – that is to say, the puzzles are interesting but the settings are deliberately intentional, so the solutions are so obvious that almost turn into memory exams or skill tests majored in repetitive jumping. That’s why I’d rather call it puzzle-oriented platformer. Also, may because that the designer was more focusing on the meaningfulness, interrelations of the puzzles, and the visual, audio part that could help to represent them, while the puzzles themselves and usability part was less tweaked or polished.
f) Particularly, besides having typical puzzles through the whole game, puzzle games always have hidden rewards/levels/endings, etc. So I get the habit – most puzzle game players’ habit – that always (at least try to) go to every spot on the screen – even it looks impossible or useless. This also applies to most adventure games or some RPGs. Eversion delightfully added more endings which required quite a few works to uncover them, such as finding out all 8 hidden letters or the secret exit in a ultralong, sectional repeating, non-retrogradable level. But because of the go-to-everywhere rule and the less difficult of its puzzles, I found the first few hidden letters even without realizing they were special items. To some extent, this also reduced my fun of playing it as a puzzles game.
g) Because of its “one-way”, non-optional solving pattern and the really annoying collision problem, sometimes when I was stuck, I really didn’t know whether it’s because my jumping and moving were not fast or accurate enough, or just there’s a shortcut I didn’t pay enough attention. The most frustrated thing was that there’s one and only one place that when I failed it’s like because of only less-than-one-second difference, and there was another former similar situation which was an absolutely platformer-skill test, so I assumed that my awkward jumping caused the failure. I tried harder again and again, and after I raced the time and finally even succeeded, then I found there’s a “regular” solution. I won’t criticize it because this is actually a pretty normal way to set up a trap, but the control problem makes the puzzle very ambiguous in a not very positive way. It’s simply like by making the control harder, adding a lot of constrictions and setting tons of enemies and pitfalls will definitely increase the difficulty of finishing a game, but not necessarily increase its gameplay and may decrease the fun a lot, even it’s just a pure platformer.
h) The moving clusters that appeared twice (the clusters at the final level were immobile) were somehow not really applied to the theme, or the story of the game, especially the claws that flew out occasionally. But beyond that I feel it’s actually a good way to change the rhythm of the game, as well as giving the player a shock – which makes the game fun.
There was also a level that initialed with a block with could (make player) evert through several layers and so that player can go forward. This is the only block that didn’t give out gem and was the only place where player could evert through layers (normally evert only happens between adjunct layers). There seemed no other related settings or events so I supposed it’s just an interesting way that designed specifically to start the level. However, though sometimes we add ridiculous elements to make the game more fun, when there’s a pre-designed concept/theme/story that run through the whole game, some singularity might disengage it.
i) The last level is my favorite level. Not only because it’s the retrospect of all layers that let me retrograde from the last/deepest layer to the first layer of the world, in a non-retrogradable way, or the nested alternative loops which go beyond the former puzzles’ skill-testing-oriented purpose and allow player to explore more, though still require a lot repetition and memorization, but also because the concept it tried to convey and now enriches – the exploration of the parallel and dimensional structure of the our world, in different ways.
3 Puzzle game vs. Platformer – Exploring vs. Practising
It’s very hard to classify games into different genres perfectly, not only because the boundaries are quite ambiguous, but also because even a game has only one core mechanics, it can still contain different elements that feature different genres.
Puzzle solving and platforming are two of the popular mechanics that can result in amazingly chemical reactions. And depends on their proportionality coefficients, the games will have distinctive emphasises.
As I play puzzle games, I’d like to treat it as an exploring to discover possibilities, other than a practising to increase proficiency. Apparently it’s not deniable that a lot of puzzle games also require a lot of in game practise, but too many repetitions will just turn deliberation into memorization. It’s like if you need to enter a house, of course you can repeatedly knock the door until break it, and most of time you can always find a way to break it no matter how long or how hard it takes, and sometime it even turns out to be the most efficient and direct way, compared with the time, material or energy that needed to find and test other solutions. However, there are still windows, chimneys, keys and maybe even the door wasn’t locked. The potential of multi-solutions is quite important, or at least need to be considered carefully, when set up a puzzle game. I also won’t disagree with solve all the puzzles by force because it’s also a solution, however, it shouldn’t be the only one. Moreover, in a lot of situations, force could only make things worse.
According to me, I can see Eversion was designed originally as a platforming puzzle game, how ever the coincidence of the single solution puzzles and the problematic collision had made it a platformer.
4 Spiritual vs. Spacial – a weird conceptual analysis of Eversion
How do you feel about the game world of Eversion? Before the last level of Eversion, what I’d seen and felt through the game were really not that much abstruse. Maybe because I’m more sensitive to spacial perception, I always try to first see how them working in a spacial way.They were not parallel universes – they formed a single timeline; maybe the objects were projected onto those layers which have distinctive spirituals and so as presenting different configurations. Or I could also imagine that those 3D objects were sliced by 7 planes and we saw their sections at different depths.
But why they were aliened perpendicularly in this way? I could only constrainedly say that it’s because of their biological or physical properties, or we should rethink about it from the other direction.
They were not resolved by clairvoyance upon co-existences – I used to try to think they were, but they were mapped in such obvious seven-in-one relationships – looked more like reflections of different people’s consciousnesses towards the same object in a 2D space. The consciousnesses were sorted by depravities, aliened decreasingly. Then those share the same degeneracy were distributed according to 2 directions on the surface that is perpendicular to the depravity.
The problem is, no matter what’s our perspective, even we take every instance of those objects and put them into a 3 dimensional matrix, there were still only 3 dimensions. We couldn’t find the clue to go beyond that, because physically we were lacking the necessary degree of freedom.
And that’s all for the last level. At the last level, where the constrain of the world was removed, those layers could start to divert, and what’s more, amazingly formed those nested layered-circular time and spaces. By everting between those parallel closed circulating layers, we finally reached the higher dimension.
However, after finally extended the game world into a new dimension and built up such an interesting spacial puzzle, without closing or exploring the potential to close the nesting or digging deeper and circulating the spiritual dimension ordinate in a meaningful way, the the designer abruptly ended the game with some ambiguous endings.