Ever Forward is an adventure puzzle game developed by Pathea Games (My Time at Portia). You play as Maya, an intelligent and ambitious young girl who enjoys tinkering with technology. The game takes place in a dream-like world that consists of two main regions: a primary island and a puzzle-solving region.
The game begins with Maya being dropped on the beach of a vibrant, colorful island. As you explore the island, you will come across corrupted areas that certainly don’t seem to belong on the island. Standing within these corrupted sections will teleport you to the game’s puzzle world. Here, you will solve various puzzles with little more than your wits to guide you.
The dark, muted colors of the puzzle world contrast with the bright colors of the main island. You are accompanied by a small CPQ bot that activates puzzles and helps you fly through the puzzle realm. As you solve puzzles, you will unlock Maya’s forgotten memories, uncovering a touching narrative involving Maya and her mother. Solving puzzles will also clear its corrupted area back on the island.
Saved by the Block
Puzzles in Ever Forward mainly consist of bringing a block to a designated light beam at the far end of the puzzle area. Along the way, you must use stealth and distractions to avoid being detected by small sentry robots. Detection results in being teleported back to the start, or wherever you set your last save location.
I really appreciated the ability to create my own save locations on the fly in Ever Forward. In the puzzle world, you can create save points on the ground with a simple hold of a button. You will return to your save point location upon death. You can also intentionally fall back to your save point during a puzzle. This feature really comes in handy during the more challenging puzzles later on, as it allows you to save time and make steady progress while working your way through a puzzle.
No Leaf Unturned
The puzzles in Ever Forward start out fairly easy and are rather linear. However, the difficulty curve changes starkly after the first few puzzles. It probably won’t be long before you find yourself looking for a hint to help get you out of a jam.
Luckily, Ever Forward does feature a hint-dropping mechanic that involves using leaves that you’ve collected back on the island. Unfortunately, this feature is poorly explained in the game. Aside from a quick line of text early on, the game doesn’t really explain how leaf hints work or what you’re supposed to do to get them. If you missed the early text about leaf hints, then you may have also missed what key to press to use a hint when the time comes. There’s no mention of leaf hints in the settings menu.
What I gleaned from the game is that you collect leaves by interacting with various parts of the island. Approaching a squirrel or taking a boat out for a spin can grant you leaves, for example. Pressing and holding the TAB key during a puzzle will consume leaves you’ve collected and provide puzzle hints. You have a limited number of leaf hints available, so use them wisely. When used, leaf hints will appear as little leaf bundles on the ground. A hint will pop up near the bundles upon approach. The helpfulness of the leaf hints differed from puzzle to puzzle, which made me want to preserve my leaf hints for when I truly needed help.
I was pleasantly surprised at how challenging some of the puzzles were in Ever Forward following my initial preview of the prologue in May 2020. One of the things that I had hoped would improve was the connection between the island and the puzzle realm. While the leaf hints helped give a semblance of purpose to the island world in Ever Forward, I still didn’t feel motivated to thoroughly explore the island. Apart from a brief moment of sailing, the most time I spend on the island involved running from one corrupted puzzle gate to the next. The island is less of a gameplay region and more of a symbolic setting that serves the narrative.
Although the game’s story is touching and intriguing, it felt a bit muddled in its conclusion. It would have been nice to have a way to replay memories that you’ve already unlocked, if only for the sake of following the story. Though the island environment was beautiful and made for some lovely screenshots, it still could have been utilized better. My frame rate also dropped a few times while playing, but that had a negligible impact on my experience. Ever Forward is an enjoyable puzzle game that just needs a bit more fleshing out in some areas.
Ever Forward is available now on PC, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch for $14.99.