What Lies in the Multiverse (PC, Switch, PS4/PS5, Xbox One/Xbox Series) is a well-versed and multi-layered homage to a multitude of genres and themes that come together to create a pixelated delight. It’s a game that toys with unexpected topics such as mental health, death and betrayal while keeping itself balanced with light-hearted humor.
Traveling through dimensions is far from a unique concept within gaming but it is a rarity for it to be seen in a 2D platformer. Our two intrepid adventurers comprise of an old man called Everett and a kid (aptly named… Kid), the playable character, who are traversing realities to unravel the mysteries of the multiverse.
Again, this duo is hardly an original pairing with an emphatic tip of the hat to double acts such as Rick and Morty and Back to the Future, but the ‘mad genius old man and plucky kid’ pairing is often a successful one and this combo is no exception.
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Another factor contributing to the distinctiveness of the dimension-shifting mechanics within the game is the way in which it changes so drastically between worlds of completely contrasting realities.
Sure we have our Silent Hill games where we go from bad to downright depraved or The Medium (which makes our list of best survival horror games) that again plays two dark realities simultaneously. But with What Lies in The Multiverse we have two fully playable realities that depict completely different ends of the spectrum of emotion.
This is the defining factor in the game’s uniqueness. Bright and uplifting worlds shift to dark and depressing realities in a morbidly amusing manner. People you meet pleasantly interact with you, only to become a rotting pile of bones when switching reality. Pretty suburban settlements switch to post-apocalyptic wastelands and arid landscapes transform to icy tundra.
Glaring differences flash between worlds at the press of a button.
But as picturesque as these transitions are it’s not just for visual effect that we utilize the ‘shifts’ at our disposal. These drastic variations are the fundamental lynchpin of the game and the puzzle dynamic throughout. The seemingly simple 2D platforming and puzzling is deepened through the need to switch dimensions midway through puzzles and actions to progress.
Falling to your death can only be interrupted by switching worlds to find a conveniently placed ledge or vine. Items stuck between realities ‘glitch’ and can be interacted with in one world and walked through in the other.
As the game progresses we are introduced to new dynamics to keep this feature fresh. A realm where the air is poisonous and there is limited time before needing to switch back to avoid suffocation and an icy domain that you can slide along the ice at high speed allowing for bigger jumps are two such examples.
What Lies in the Multiverse really is about juxtaposition. Aside from the unique contrast between the environments, the themes and ambiance throughout rapidly flip too, making the twists all the more impactful.
Humor is the framework for much of the story, but this makes the surprisingly dark, unsettling or poignant topics really stand out. Items and ‘keepsakes’ are strewn around the game depicting atrocities and disasters. For instance, blood-soaked notes declaring the need to kill everyone that got sick are found amongst dead bodies, where previously stood a happy couple on a date.
The game also deals with themes of murder, death, depression and suicide just to give you an idea of how dark this otherwise jovial tale can be.
The music too goes on an interdimensional journey. Matching the environments, the soundtrack switches from beautifully uplifting synth and orchestral pieces to alternate versions of themselves with hauntingly, melancholic downbeat piano riffs and eerily out of key melodies.
Each world offers a different track, fittingly named to suit. As an example one reality’s track is called ‘Through the Leaves’ whilst the opposing reality’s track is called ‘Through the Corpses’. Another notable detail to show off the developer’s commitment to these disparate worlds.
The platforming doesn’t demand the precision of other games in the genre, and the puzzles are relatively simple. The game itself isn’t trying to be unique in function but in theme and presentation.
Behind the gameplay lies the storyline, the cornerstone of its depth. The macabre and bleak topics mix effectively with the humor and cheerful presentation, another successful reminder of how well the multiverse mechanics work.
This interdimensional tale of cat-and-mouse antics keeps things consistently fresh with its multipersonalitied twists and turns.
It triumphantly pivots what is otherwise an arguably familiar concept into something original and inspired by bringing new life to both the theme and format.
It may not the best platformer game you will have ever played but it is by far the best multidimensional, reality-shifting platformer game you will have ever played, and that in itself is indicative of its success.