Everlight Review

Lame jokes and long loads are all you need to know about point-and-click adventure Everlight.

Everlight: Of Magic and Power is a point-and-click adventure that falls flat on its face in just about every way. It tries to be all things to all people, with a lighthearted Harry Potter-esque story to bring in the kids and quests dealing with moral judgments to draw adults. Unfortunately, the final product feels both forced and fussy, and is further weighed down by tedious level loads.

Everlight's comprehensive help system is needed to figure out some of the game's quests, such as this one to scare off a guard with a third-rate genie.
Everlight's comprehensive help system is needed to figure out some of the game's quests, such as this one to scare off a guard with a third-rate genie.

The plot is a mash-up of old fairy tales and self-referential modern fantasy. You play Melvin, a contemporary teen who finds himself teleported into a magic land after looking for refuge from a rainstorm in a creepy candle shop. Before you can even tell the bucktoothed proprietor that he should really look into getting his Bugs Bunny choppers capped, you're off to the cursed town of Tallen to discover your magical destiny in the company of a smart-aleck elf named Fiona (the game's original European subtitle was Power to the Elves). Your entire quest is framed as a search for your magical identity through a series of challenges that test your fears and work to free Tallen from a curse that makes the townspeople do strange, Vegas-y things at night such as drink heavily and gamble. So the five chapters come with names like Fear of Failure, Fear of Death, and Fear of Fear. In reality, though, the plot structure is pretty much adventure-game generic. Instead of any deep moral choices, you actually just run a lot of errands, lug piles of junk all over the landscape, do favors to win friends, and so forth. This is an old-fashioned "You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" collection of odd jobs that play out exactly as they have in adventure games since the mid-1980s.

Not that there's anything wrong with that--in most cases, at least. However, in Everlight, your tasks are choppy and lacking in sensible progression. Sometimes you have to make huge leaps in logic to figure out what to do next, given that characters don't provide enough tips to push you in the right direction. You can probably blame this on a poor translation from the original German. The dialogue is a touch off, which makes it hard to get the gist of some conversations. It also ruins whatever sense of humor might have been possessed by the original game; every attempt at a joke here turns into one of those cricket-chirping silences that make you feel embarrassed for the guy who wrote this dreck. The only somewhat amusing facet of the entire game is Fiona, the supposedly friendly elf (actually a Tinker Bell-type fairy, not the conventional Legolas-style interpretation of the forest-dwellers with pointy ears). In reality, she hates everybody in Tallen and laces her conversations with liberal uses of words such as "idiot" and "moron." With a little more nastiness, she would have been legitimately funny.

This awkwardness even messes up the basic plot structure. Every chapter seems to include a couple of moments in which one quest somehow morphs into another with virtually no explanation, such as how your hunt to find out who is shooting at Walt's house at night turns into a hunt to find out what magic-shop owner Farida and hermit Kalas are doing after dark. This is also one of those games in which you can't guess your way to solving puzzles. For example, an early quest forces you to cut the seal off of an old document so you can slip it into a pile and have it notarized by a town elder. You've already grabbed a pair of scissors, and you can deduce your objective by simply reading the document and then observing how the wing-nut elder is sealing and signing letters without looking at them. But you still can't play medieval cut-and-paste until you talk to Fiona and have her flat-out tell you what to do. What's the technical word for this style of game design again? Ah, yes. "Argh!"

At least you can occasionally dodge these frustrating situations by turning to the in-game help system. Fiona takes notes along the way that serve as a list of quests in progress, and you can either consult or interact with this list by clicking on three magic candles for tips. Twenty candles are available for use in the entire game at the default difficulty level, so you can't lean on them every time you get stuck, but they're still quite useful. The first candle gives you a nudge-nudge, wink-wink clue, the second provides more-detailed instructions, and the third polishes everything off by rounding out all of the advice into a walkthrough of the current conundrum. It's a pretty elegant system that is the best thing about the game, especially when you consider how necessary it is due to the translation wonkiness and how the story is aimed at preteens.

Hmm. Apparently what happens in Tallen stays in Tallen.
Hmm. Apparently what happens in Tallen stays in Tallen.

One flaw of Everlight that you can't dodge is its dated visual presentation. All of the 3D character models are disturbingly mannequin-like, with few facial features and mouths that move independently of the actual spoken dialogue. It's all rather creepy. Only Melvin's resemblance to Harry Potter (sans specs) gives the game any sense of personality and warmth. Background scenery is much better. Added details both inside and outside the medieval houses and shops that dot Tallen make the hamlet look like a living and breathing place. Nevertheless, there are so few locations in the game that you can't help being annoyed by trudging down the same streets and entering the same buildings over and over again. An even bigger annoyance is the amount of time needed to load these scenes. It seems like each location is loaded from scratch every time you enter it, so simply going from one street to another, entering a house, or even pulling up the map screen to take a shortcut to another part of town causes a load of between 5 and 10 seconds. That doesn't sound like a great deal of time, but these constant interruptions soon add up to a great big headache considering how much running around you have to do here.

Despite all of these problems, Everlight isn't so much terrible as it is terribly executed. This is one of those poorly put-together games that somehow winds up being less than the sum of its parts. You could probably break up all of the game components and then reassemble them into something that is at least half decent. But that's a lot more work than simply ignoring this game, and your best bet is to look elsewhere for a more competently developed adventure.

The Good

  • Ambitious plot that tries to bridge the gap between adult and kid adventures
  • Comprehensive in-game help system

The Bad

  • Poor translation messes up both plot structure and quest coherence
  • Generic quest design is all about odd jobs and favors
  • Frequent, long load times
  • Dated character models

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