Review: Everlight (PC)

Everlight
Developer: Silver Style
Publisher: The Adventure Company
Genre: Adventure
Release Date: 10/07/2008


I used to be a big fan of point-and-click adventure games. King’s Quest, Space Quest and Phantasmagoria used to be some of my favourite franchises. As computer games became more sophisticated and my budget kept getting smaller, I more or less abandoned PC gaming to concentrate on consoles. In fact, the only PC game I purchased in the last ten years is Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and that was because I had just bought a brand new machine at the time.

Writing for Diehard GameFAN gave me the opportunity to rekindle my interest in PC games as I learned that there were still games being made with weaker configurations in mind. The only problem is that they never get as much hype as the bigger budget titles. Since going back to computer games, I have dabbled in many genres, but was never able to review an adventure game until Everlight came along.

When it showed up in my mailbox, I was suddenly filled with all the anticipation and excitement that I guess one would get when meeting his first elementary school crush after a decade or two apart. I took a shower, dressed nice and dimmed the lights for our special date. After all these years, I was given a chance to try my hand at adventure games once again.

I should have known from the start that something was wrong. The first time I put the installation DVD inside my computer, the process was halted halfway through when my antivirus (AVG) detected a Trojan horse and pointed to the game’s executable file as the culprit. False positives are nothing new when it comes to antivirus programs, so I turned that one off and tried another one (Avast). Once again, the installation was stopped when a Trojan horse was found, even though the guilty file was not the same. I repeated the process with McAfee, who thankfully did not detect anything, so the installation was allowed to continue without a hitch.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not saying that the game ships with a virus. In fact, it most probably doesn’t. However, I do think that this is the kind of thing that should be checked in QA tests. Even if it is nothing but a false alarm, it is the kind of thing that could really bug some users and make customer service representatives very busy.

When I was finally able to start the game, I was met with a cut scene explaining the game’s story. You play the role of Melvin, a boy who is described on the back of the game’s box as a misfit, “Treated poorly by his classmates.” To escape his dull life, he often has fantasies about magic worlds filled with elves, knights and magic. One day, Melvin enters a seedy shop to escape from the rain. The owner, a beaver-toothed fellow appropriately named Mr. Teeth, shows him that magic might be real after all before sending the protagonist to a far away land, where the citizens are under a curse that makes them behave strangely at night. As you probably guessed it, from that point, it is Melvin’s job to solve the mystery and make everybody happy once again.

What I just described is basically the introduction chapter. Just with that scene, I was able to spot a couple of problems that would plague the rest of my game experience. The first issue is the incredibly long load times. Knowing that my computer is four years old, I decided to test the issue on another computer, on a dual-core processor with 2GB of RAM and a 256MB video card. The loading times were still abnormally long, to the point where it becomes annoying and distracting. Such problems can really kill the fun in a game, especially when it comes to a genre that thrives on offering frequent scenery changes that require loading between each setting.

The second issue is the fact that Melvin is far from being lovable. The game tries to describe him as a poor victim who gets bullied in school, but everything about him, from the things he does and says to his look, makes him look like a loud-mouthed jerk. Through the game, most of Melvin’s dialogs are peppered with smart-ass comments and remarks. It’s pretty easy to actually put yourself in his interlocutor’s shoes, and understand why some would be so unhelpful to him. Some of the things he says, such as putting down a man simply because he is a janitor, would usually get him smacked in the face, but it is when the game literally asks you to poison a tree for your own convenience that you realize that Melvin might not be such an inoffensive little boy.

The last thing exposed by the introduction is the voice acting. Most minor characters, like the aforementioned Mr. Teeth as well as some of the villagers, are actually quite enjoyable in their spoken lines. However, Melvin’s voice actor doesn’t really seem to fit the personality they were going for as he sounds much too old and confident.

The last two issues unfortunately apply not only to Melvin, but also to the other major character of the game: a fairy named Fiona. She is supposed to be your helpful companion for the duration of the game. Sure, she is indeed quite helpful as she can dispense multiple advices whenever you don’t know what to do next, but she just might be the most annoying sidekick in the history of video games. I am one of the few people who actually enjoyed Navi the fairy in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and I know that many gamers hate her with a passion. Knowing that fact, try to think just how annoying Fiona would have to be so that even I couldn’t stand her.

First of all, she consistently complains about everything happening, and whenever you decide to ask for your guidance, she calls you names because you couldn’t find the answer on your own. I guess this is supposed to motivate the player to try things out on his own and only rely on the fairy as a last resort, but it only made me want to turn the sound all the way down. Fiona also suffers from issues with voice acting. She just doesn’t sound very convincing, as if the lines were simply being read in a monotonous tone. It’s a shame that the two characters you actually follow the longest are the less appealing of the whole cast.

Graphically, the game looks nice enough, even though it feels a bit outdated. The backgrounds and sceneries are all beautiful, but it’s when it comes to the characters’ models that it becomes weaker. There are a couple of jagged edges here and there, and the movements lack fluidity. There are also clipping issues when two 3-D objects make contact, like when a character picks something up. It doesn’t take anything away from the game itself or from the immersion; it’s just that the animations and models pale when compared to the way the rest of it all is handled.

The audio components of Everlight are unfortunately lacking in many places. Let’s start with the music, which is painfully generic and bland. It doesn’t really enhance some the different scenes as you would see from a memorable soundtrack, and it also fails to create a fitting atmosphere in some of the tenser moments. The whole game is not really heavy on music anyway, but what is there is far from being mind-blowing.

The sound effects in general are ok, but there is one or two of them that were noticeably bad. One that comes to mind is the barking of the dogs. I cannot confirm if I am correct on this one, but it really sounded like a human being trying to imitate a dog. How hard can it be to come up with a convincing bark, or simply find a stock effect?

The voice acting also needs to be mentioned, because while I was not exactly charmed by the voices of the two main characters in this game, the minor ones are for the most part very well done. The grumpy people of that world sound appropriately grumpy, which is a good thing since there are many of them. The council members sound old and wise. The developers did a solid job with the voice acting, despite a misstep or two.

Gameplay-wise, I would like to commend Everlight for its very lean and effective interface. Everything stays out of your face at all times, unless you reach for the bottom of the screen, at which time a simple banner with the items you have acquired pops up. There is also a handy button that lets you change day to night and vice-versa so you can be more efficient in your quests. The rest of the controls are as simple as a point-and-click adventure should be, and the hit detection, if I can call it that, is very precise. You will never find yourself trying to grab an object or click on a different path without the game registering it. All in all, Everlight scores big here because it is very effective in that regard.

One thing that needs to be said is that Everlight is not a difficult game. I know that many adventure games aficionados are into that genre because of the challenge provided by the puzzles and riddles, which is something on which this game is a little bit light. Even when not using Fiona’s help, most quests can be resolved by simply going to the appropriate person and going through every single line of dialog available before stumbling upon your solution. There is not a lot of problem-solving involved, and whenever there is, the solution is often obvious.

I have a feeling that this game was designed with kids in mind. The theme seems to draw a little bit from both Harry Potter and Lords of the Rings – to be fair, many games and movies do that nowadays – and the difficulty is just too much on the easy side. The problem is that the game has been slapped with a “T” rating by the ESRB, and I guess that it has to do with the fact that both drugs and alcohol are referenced over the course of the story. I can’t be sure what kind of audience the developers were going for, but the game feels trapped somewhere between child and adult territories, which in the end, makes it unsatisfying for both.

Finally, there are couple more issues which could be considered nitpicking, but which I would like to mention anyway.

The first one is that whenever you speak with someone and select a line of dialog, Melvin repeats whatever you chose to say out loud. Maybe it is just me, but by selecting an answer, I feel as if I had already said it. With my character saying it too, it just feels redundant. Once again this is no big deal, because the option menu gives you the option to disable voices in favour of subtitles if you are more of a “text” person.

Speaking of the menus, I have a feeling that the game was not originally developed in English, as indicated by some of the typos that were left in the final version of the game. An example would be the music menu, which is labelled “musik”, which if I am not mistaken, is German.

The last thing I would like to mention is some of the ill-fated attempts at humour I have witnessed while playing Everlight. More often than not, the culprit is Melvin, who too often tries to be a smart-aleck when speaking to other people. Maybe he was intentionally designed with a bad sense of humour, because after all, the game describes him as unpopular and nerdy. If such is the case, then you can call it a resounding success.

The Scores
Story/Modes: Mediocre
Graphics: Above Average
Sound: Mediocre
Control and Gameplay: Great
Replayability: Bad
Balance: Mediocre
Originality: Poor
Addictiveness: Poor
Appeal Factor: Poor
Miscellaneous: Bad

FINAL SCORE: BELOW AVERAGE GAME

Short Attention Span Summary

Everlight looks good, sounds average but plays great. Its biggest problem is that it doesn’t really seem to know what it wants to be. Is it a beginner’s adventure game, or is it a game aimed toward adults with themes of moral choices and tough decisions? In the end, it’s just a game that is too easy to be taken seriously but too dark to be accessible to a wide audience. Die Hard GameFAN’s own Alex Lucard has reviewed better adventure games this year, so if you are really itching for something to point and click, why don’t you take a look through his archives?

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