Reviewed by Mark Hasley
Once upon a time a young boy named Melvin wandered into Mr. Teethís magic candle emporium. He talked to the proprietor and said he wished to become a real magician. With a few magic spells, Mr. Teeth whisked Melvin off to the land of Everlight and the town of Tallen so that he could learn magic in a truly magic place. Thus begins the game for which I had been waiting a long while. Everlight had elements of magic, mystery, and fantasy. It had strange and wonderfully odd characters. It had exquisite graphics. It could have been one of the great games of all times. It was not.
The story for this game was rather well conceived. It was about a young boy named Melvin. As the tale begins, he walks into Mr. Teethís magic candle emporium to get out of the rain. He tells Mr. Teeth that he would like to become a magician and he rather abruptly (but quite non-violently) finds himself in the pseudo-medieval town of Tallen. Here he meets his spirit guide, a winged elf named Fiona, who tells him that he must save the town from the five curses that plague it. She assures him that she will help, and the game actually begins as the two wander the town seeking for answers and adventures. They meet all kinds of interesting and strange townsfolk and deal with all kinds of special happenstances while in the process of saving the town. The story is simple, clear, and completely fine. There are lots of eccentric and interesting characters doing lots of weirdly entertaining things. As the tale unfolds, it generally works very nicely. The problem with the story is that much of it doesnít really end. At the conclusion there are uncompleted plot lines. To bend all rules of fiction even further, there is a new character stuck into the story in the last few minutes to help conclude the tale. It was almost as if the developers of this game are attempting to prepare the player for Everlight II.
The interface is a pleasant combination of tried-and-true third person processes, combined with a few really entertaining gadgets. The gamer directs the third person character of Melvin. The cursor, as usual, changes shapes for the different possible functions. There are the standard arrow for direction, magnifying glass for careful examination, a hand for picking things up, and a mouth symbol for conversations. (Note: there are many conversations, and they are handled with many rather repetitive conversation trees.) The escape key takes the player back to the main menu where he will find the usual new game, save game, load game, return, and settings. There appear to be an indefinite number of save game slots available. In the settings section there are volume controls for sound effects, voice, and music. Subtitles are also available there (listed under dialogue). This always impresses me because I am of a generation that is aging quickly and I don't hear as well as I used to.
The inventory simply appears at the bottom of the screen whenever the cursor is dropped to that point. In the inventory are stored all the items that Melvin has picked up during his wandering. These items can be used in the game, or they can be combined in the inventory and then simply and easily become new things to be used in the game. The inventory also contains a couple of very pleasant surprises. First of all, there is the most prettily executed map that Iíve ever seen. It is beautifully drawn in 3-D with some moodily effective animation. It shows the various areas of Tallen. The player can simply click on the area on the map and Melvin will run to that point. The neat thing is that the player will watch from a distance as a very small-scaled Melvin runs, and will see Fiona follow him dripping 'Pixie Dust'. Itís a very effective tool and is very entertaining as well.
The other really clever item is a 'Sun & Moon Time Device'. Anytime the gamer clicks on this spot in the inventory, the game advances in time to the next night or day. When I reach the part of this review where I discuss characters, the reader will realize that this time device becomes very important.
The presentation of the game was quite well done. The graphics are very pretty indeed. Tallen is not only a stereotypical quaint medieval town, but it is shown as Walt Disney might have presented such a town. The stone walls and wooden bracings are aesthetically weathered, but never dowdy. There are few straight lines. The windows are romantically round or oval in shape. The roofs are either slightly concave or convex, but never straight. There are arches and turrets and gargoyles and all kinds of Ďcuteí things.
Not only is the town good looking, but there are also several really special items in it. The player will find a carrot tree that actually has carrots on it. There are talking, and very well dressed, mice. There is a 'Werepoodle' (Yep, a cute little dog that becomes a monster at night!). There are lots of cute, well drawn, and interesting details throughout the game.
Not only is Tallen a pleasant and pretty little town, but it is also always full of movement. There are several kinds of birds, and a large variety of butterflies. Clouds roll by, birds fly, butterflies flutter, squirrels and other cute animals leap in and out of scenes, and the wind-powered mill constantly turns. The only thing that seemed a bit odd was that there seemed to be a preponderance of rats running around. They didnít add to or detract from the story. They were simply always there and no one seemed to notice. (I kept waiting for the Pied Piper to show up. The setting was perfect for him.) The only negative part of the town itself was that the playing area is very small. There are basically just two short streets and four or five rather small areas for our hero to be adventurous in. Since the gameplay requires a goodly amount of going back and forth, Iíd have liked a few more places to go.
The music in the background was adequate, but little more. Frankly, Iím not an aficionado of music in a game, but I have the feeling that there wasnít a great deal of variety in medieval music and the producers of this game seemed to wish to maintain some sort of historical credibility. The music wasnít at all bad, and it certainly didnít detract from the game. It simply got a bit repetitive.
The voice acting in Everlight was rather unique. The normal voices were well done and rather effective. There were a great many oddly accented and simply strange voices, but that too worked rather well because there were a great many oddly focused or simply strange characters. Without exception, the voices fit the characters exceedingly well. (This is perhaps not quite true of Melvin. Sometimes he is a pleasant young man. Sometimes he is an arrogant little jerk. But I assume that this is the fault of a writer, not an actor.) This becomes even more impressive as the gamer begins to understand that every citizen of Tallen is, in fact, two people. All the people become radically different people at night. This doesnít mean that itís a town of werewolves or vampires. The people simply undergo radical personality changes in the dark or light. All the voice actors presented this situation exceedingly well.
So there is a brief outline of the game and frankly, I realize that it sounds pretty good. However, even with all the positive elements that I've noted above, there were some real problems.
For example, some of the characters and the conversations go off in rather crass directions. There is a running gag where a given character is a fairly pleasant but rather stereotypical old lady during the daytime. At night she becomes a withered and rather offensive dominatrix, complete with whips, chains, and rather sleazy conversations. There is also a long running conversation tree that deals with erectile dysfunction, and which type of magic device will fix it. And there are several other instances of rather awkward 'adult material' that were absolutely unnecessary to the story. It seemed that whoever put this together decided that every once in a while they would pointlessly stick in some plot or a character element that might appeal to a bunch of fourteen year old boys. It is of course possible that after my sixtieth birthday I simply became a miserable old poop, but I donít think that is the cause of my objections here. These situations were offensive not because of the subject matter, but simply because they didnít fit with the rest of the game.
I also had a few technical problems with this game. My computer meets all of the minimum standards listed for the game and several areas of these standards are far exceeded, but I still had problems. More that half the time the cursor blinked on and off, disappeared completely, or appeared in some shape clearly not described in the game manual. This problem reached the point where the game became almost impossible to complete without a walkthrough, so I broke one of my own rules and played the final third of the game with a printed walkthrough in front of me. Be assured that with a cursor that disappears at times, the game was still plenty difficult even with a walkthrough. Not only was the cursor a problem, but also throughout the game it is necessary for Melvin, and the poor player, to move very often from screen to screen. These screen changes took far too long a time. I cannot emphasize enough or exaggerate how long these changes took. Every few minutes I flashed back to when I played URU for the first time. Every scenic change in Everlight seemed to take forever. They took so long that the rhythm of the game was lost. The game utilized that Microsoft Ďspinning hourglassí symbol to fill the time between scene changes, and I grew extremely weary of that blasted little whirling timepiece. At times I felt that sheep being counted would have been far more appropriate.
Finally though, this and most other adventure games rise and fall on their puzzles. And here too Everlight fell. Before clarifying that concept though, I must note that there are several Ďhintí systems in the game. Pushing the F1 button brings up Fionaís notebook. Here she keeps careful track of what tasks have been completed and what has yet to be done. Here too can be found hints to assist the player with each particular puzzle. There is also one button available that will show all the exits from the screen, and another to display all the hotspots in a particular viewing area. But all that Ďhelpí doesnít really help very much.
Most of the puzzles in this game are inventory based. The problem is that there seldom seems to be any reason for Melvin to do what he does. More than half of the time Melvin wanders around and picks up stuff that the designer of the game clearly stuck in there for no reason except to have Melvin find it. There seemed to me to be little logic or reason for most of the things I did in the game. Melvin and I simply ran all over the place and found odd items that were often blatantly out of place. There were several elements of a hidden object game here. Even when I hit the H button and lit up all the hotspots, the pixel hunting was irritating because the hotspot wasnít actually where the game said it was. As mentioned before, I became so frustrated with the lack of direction that I used a walkthrough for the entire final third of the game. Even reading and following a walkthrough written by a widely recognized writer didnít help. Reading and following that walkthrough still didnít help me understand why Melvin did what he did. There were some cute ideas, but they seldom fit into any context of the story, and there was seldom any way that Melvin could have possibly known what he was supposed to be doing. In fairness, none of this was horrible, but there was never the "Aha, thatís it!" moment that adventure gamers look for. There was seldom a point where I finally realized how to solve a particular problem. I simply had to pointlessly keep doing 'stuff ' until something worked. I never felt that Melvin or I really understood what was going on. After awhile these puzzles stopped being perplexing and simply became irksome.
In general, I was extremely disappointed in this game because it seemed to me that everything was there. The game was quite pretty and rather well acted. The plot had great potential for anyone who loves fantasy and 'Innocent Young Hero' tales, as I do. However, most of the good elements of the game were muddled or harmed by several elements of carelessness and simple bad taste. Perhaps most important, the puzzles werenít so much puzzles as they were problems at which the player had to guess. All in all, the game was fine to look at and listen to, but the story and the puzzles that were supposed to be inherent in that plot simply didnít work for me. Everything was on the lower end of "Adequate", but the key elements of any adventure game were simply not presented very well in Everlight.
© November 2008 Mark Hasley
Developed (2008) by Silver Style Entertainment and published by The Adventure Company.
Rated: T for Teen 13+ (drug reference, language, sexual themes, violent references)
Minimum System Requirements:
PC: 2.0 GHz Pentium IV or AMD Athlon Processor (2.6 GHz Pentium IV or AMD Athlon Recommended); Windows 2000 / XP / Vista; 512 MB RAM (1 GB Recommended); 4X DVD-ROM Drive; DirectX 9.0c Compatible, 64 MB RAM Graphics Card; DirectX 9 Compatible Sound Card; 4 GB Free Hard Drive Space; DirectX 9.0c; Mouse, Keyboard & Speakers
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