It seems like everywhere you look these days there is talk of the Multiverse. I mean they are cramming it down our throats like they used to do with multivitamin commercials. But for all our interests in the topic, how much do we truly understand? What lies (and lives) in the multiverse? What can you expect to experience? Well look no further than this trippy title from Untold Games. Are you ready to know What Lies In the Multiverse.
What Lies In the The Multiverse
Developer: Studio Voyager; IguanaBee
Publisher: Untold Games
Available on: Nintendo Switch; Playstation 4/5; Xbox One; Microsoft Windows
Review Version: Nintendo Switch
If the path to hell is paved with good intentions, then this game shows the first steps into the multiverse begin with the mother of all inventions. We celebrate innovations that turn a profit, but what about those that help us progress. There are things bigger than the bottom line and the answers are out there.
At least that is what Edwin seems to believe. After a few moments of philosophy we get to encounter the story’s protagonist. A young inventor who is preparing to flip the switch on his newest invention. If successful, Edwin believes he an simulate all possible realities, thus knowing everything there is to know (sure his name isn’t Essex?).
Question? If you’re inventing a machine that is designed to help you know everything (cause ya know, you don’t know everything already) what could possibly go wrong?
Look Before You Leap
The good news is Edwin’s machine works, a little too well. In his mind I assume Edwin thought he would get a glimpse of all there was. In honestly the adventure begins with his first bit of universal knowledge: Experience Is The Best Teacher.
Instead of creating a simulation, Edwin inadvertently creates a situation. Slipping between universes takes a bit out of Edwin, knocking you out. There is a quick layover in a lab which puts you on some scientists radar for disrupting things. But before they can correct your mistakes you slip again. Dropped into a serene hillside setting, Edwin awakens to find himself among a group of monks. The dialogue offers a comedian zen, asking and having fun with contemplative thoughts. As you move along the side scrolling world it doesn’t take long before Edwin encounters his next universal truth. You are the problem and solution.
The beautiful mountainside monastery transforms, revealing how time has taken over. The bridge you were crossing disappears and you fall into a spider’s web. Upon escaping you discover only the bones and broken statues remain. Since this removes the wall blocking your path it seems time has a way of working things out. You immediately slide back into the monk’s world. Traveling deeper you discover a long candlelit hallway. Finally some answers(?).
The Chap in the Cap
Now, while you control Edwin’s actions there is another major mover in the multiverse. All you need to know about the game’s tone comes from Everett’s presence. He even arrives to a horn blast and confetti flying. From the changes in the music to the conversations that take place, when Everett shows up he just makes things happen. Notice I didn’t say they were all good. From the moment he appears on screen and you hear the funky jazzy beat kick you will fight the urge to tap your toes to the beat.
It’s not just the music that gets funky. Everett adds the FU to the funny moments you experience in the game. You get the impression he’s the type who would say I’ll be right back at a bar and leave you with the tab. Oh wait, he actually does that. But, he does promise if you stick with him he will show you all you want to know. What a mentor, and you his willing accomp..err..apprentice.
Here and then….Here
The game’s environments are so simple on the surface, yet that is because of how tricky the multiverse is. The rich and multi-colored areas each conceal an amazingly intricate detail. See sometimes the place you need to go or the thing you need just isn’t where you are. So what initially seems like a side-scroller becomes a slip-scroller. Everett shows Edwin (the player) how to “control” the multiverse. You’re able to slip between the worlds actively, instead of passively like in the opening sequence.
Using this ability, and it’s affect on the gameplay, requires a bit of explanation. My favorite book growing up was a family member’s anatomy book. The thing I loved about it, well yes it was the pictures, but it was a particular reason. The laminated pages allowed overlays, so you could see “what lies” in each human body layer. This is how the slip-scroller plays. As Edwin works to “fix” the situation you encounter puzzles and the immediate solution isn’t always there. And since time waits for no man, why wait for time. Just slip and you will find a solution in another universe.
Every so often you will encounter an “obscurity”. These items exist in the space between space. They allow you to move around or through a seemingly solid object, then make it permanent to solve the puzzle. There is a lot to make you think in the multiverse.
It’s not only in puzzle solving you may discover something. It’s a multiverse, surely you will find some other stuff along the way. Like if a desert town becomes covered in ice, or the field of gravity is changed, that has to mean something universally. And what about the company you keep and share drinks with, can you trust them with your life when times get tough? Edwin wanted answers. The game’s NPCs offer them in their stories. The game’s mature theme message was warning enough that some tough topics are in this game. The images of characters here and gone in a flash can provoke some real feelings. Sadly, this same grief does not extend to Edwin. Not only do you get tasered (several times) but, yep another universal truth. Careful, there is a lot of dangerous (dark and deadly) stuff lurking out there.
But it isn’t all bad. Happy and hypnotic tunes play as Edwin traverses the tapestry of time brought together through vibrant 2D environments. The creativity of the game is so impressive there is both an artbook and soundtrack available. What Lies In the Multiverse is a mix of hilarity and insight. It isn’t often that you talk to an NPC multiple times without an achievement or unlockable. Sometimes I would replay the conversations as they are painful and peaceful at the same time. What Lies in the Multiverse has enough puzzle, platforming elements to keep you thinking and dialogue to keep you questioning. Edwin saw his “experiment” as a gateway to knowledge Untold. What lies in the multiverse is life, love, loss and laughter, and even lies. Of course Edwin’s mom thought he was just playing a game.
“Sometimes it can be wise to accept things just as they are. ” – Zen Monk 0, What Lies In The Multiverse