“In a way, it all started with Undertale,” Chris Nordgren, VFX artist and co-founder of Foreign Gnomes, tells me of RPG musical fighter Everhood. when I interview her about the game, which shares some obvious and immediate visual similarities to Toby Fox’s 2015 indie darling. It’s on purpose. This is also not where the similarities end.

“[Undertale is] a game that I admired a lot, ”says Nordgren. “But before I played it for the first time, I admit I despised Undertale because of its minimalist art direction. As a visual effects artist it was against my interests at the time, but that perception was completely shattered when I started playing Undertale!“We’re not afraid to say what inspired us. It was a deliberate choice to have our game share some aesthetic similarities with Undertale. Some people might say we’ve done too much – and maybe that they are right in a few cases – but we wouldn’t want to change that.

“The whole game is really compressed into highlights from other games. If you really go through every scene in Everhood, you will probably find a reference to another game, even if it looks completely different.”

But before I first played it, I admit I despised Undertale … but that perception was completely shattered when I first started playing.

However, it would be doing Everhood a huge disservice to accuse him of being some kind of copy of Undertale. After playing it to one of its multiple endings, it’s more appropriate to call Everhood a response to Undertale, especially when it comes to how the player interacts with the beings they encounter in the titular world.

Without Spoiling Everhood: You play as a puppet-like character who simply passes by Red. At the start of the game, your arm is stolen from you by Blue Thief and delivered to a greedy villain named Gold Pig. The first half of the game is all about meeting the players in the game and seeing the sights as you try to get your arm back.

The second half of Everhood gives you a very different goal – one that some players may not want to achieve. There are several possible ways to approach the second half of the game, and while they can be difficult to find, there are routes available for those who don’t want to embrace the quest given to them. Nordgren says the team has relied heavily on play testing to make sure people don’t feel completely stuck.

“But if a player decides to stop playing the game at this point, I think it creates a unique gaming experience in its own right,” Nordgren continues. “This decision says a lot about who made it, and it’s really powerful.”

Another absolutely critical difference between Everhood and just about anything else is its battles. They take place on a screen similar to a Guitar Hero song, with the enemy dancing to the music as if playing a rhythm game. But the player receives these notes and must dodge them to survive the encounter.

It’s a musical game that isn’t purely and simply about rhythm, it’s more like being in an interactive music video.

“It’s a musical game that isn’t purely and simply about rhythm, it’s more like an interactive music video,” Norgren describes, claiming that creating the combat system for Everhood was actually pretty easy.

“Every time I listened to music I would imagine it as a music video. I would make a mockup, send it to Jordi and see if he could make the battle work.”

In fact, Everhood’s music was composed before one of his game locations was conceived, and he and his Foreign Gnomes co-founder Jordi Roca piece together the context for those fights once the music was over. .

“The amazing artists who worked with us on Everhood would usually create a certain piece of music that was intended to capture a theme or feeling and from there it was about trying to bring it into the game.

“As for most of the final battles, I took a different approach from the freer method I mentioned before. For the crucial battles, the music was carefully composed and orchestrated to really deliver beats and rhythms. twists specific to the story! “

Everhood is the first game Nordgren and Roca worked on together, and according to Nordgren (who also works at Mojang on games like Minecraft Dungeons) it came together in a somewhat unusual way. The story, he says, was largely improvised as he and Roca went along, for example.

“We just tried to create some interesting scenes in hopes of finding the overall story along the way. Sometimes I felt like I was contacted by something divine that guided me to what sounded good to me.I’m sure a lot of creative people can relate to this feeling.

“The main theme of Everhood became evident to me somewhere in the middle of the production. Once I figured out what it was really about, I started to adjust the details and point to the situation in his outfit.”

Everhood is a strange and thoughtful experience. It asks players to think carefully about what it means to live, die, and kill in an RPG setting, and frequently interrupts the story with bizarre sequences where unseen beings ask the player to contemplate immortality and humanity. While several sequences seem to evoke specific philosophical traditions or schools of thought, Norgren says he didn’t have any in mind when he was directing Everhood. Rather, he was very focused on the idea of ​​an endless journey or quest. He says he would like to be more educated on some of the individual schools of thought, but then he retorts, “That would also defeat the purpose somehow, wouldn’t it. ? “

“I think more of a journey to find what works for you. Everhood is a collage of ideas and ultimately it’s more in the eye of the beholder. The message from Everhood is that I’m convinced that travel is something we should cherish. “

Everhood is now available on Steam and Nintendo Switch, but after playing it I recommend players with photosensitivity issues heed the warnings of the opening. Norgren confirms, however, that he and Roca are sending the game in for photosensitivity testing and planning to incorporate options to turn off certain effects. “Making sure everyone can experience Everhood safely is a priority for us right now,” he says.

Beyond that, Norgren says he thinks there may be more to explore in the world of Everhood, although he and Roca will have to experiment more before they can confirm anything new – and if they do anything more, it will of course take time.

For now, Norgren is hoping those interested will play Everhood at their own pace. “I recommend that you don’t rush into the game. Make sure you play Everhood when you feel ready!”

Rebekah Valentine is a reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @canardvalentine.