There is no doubt about it: the multiverse is real. In What Lies in the Multiverse, developed by StudioVoyager and IguanaBee, the trouble-making Everett and his assistant, The Kid, are on the run from a group that prefers to monitor the chaotic occurrences in the multiverse. This calls for a colorful and hilarious indie adventure that made me smile and chuckle all the way through as I progressed through the pixelated narrative. Switching in between different universes to solve puzzles is definitely the name of the game, but the question still remains: What Lies in the Multiverse?
A Literal Race Through Space and Time
The Kid is attempting to bring the hypothetical multiverse idea into an actual discovery. With his lovely cat sitting lazily in his room with him, a sudden glitch in reality transpires. The screen stutters, and before we know it, the tiny protagonist is transported to another universe. It’s not long until an eccentric time-wizard appears out of nowhere. Known only as Everett, The Kid soon joins this enigmatic figure in a race through space and time while acting as his assistant.
And it’s a story worth diving into, actually. The writing is so well-executed that every character has a distinctive arc, even when it comes to some of the random NPCs you run into (and The Kid’s cat, who apparently likes to get down and party when his owner isn’t around). In-between all the witty lines, dark humor, and meta-commentary lies a personal underlying with these characters. It propels the game’s dealings with the human condition, understanding, and destiny with enough honest moments to make the story memorable. Not to mention that Everett can definitely be seen as a mix between Rick Sanchez and Willy Wonka. If that description doesn’t best describe him, then I’m not sure what else will.
Two Worlds Are Better Than One
What Lies in the Multiverse plays out like a classic platformer reminiscent of Super Mario Bros. You make your way through a story-driven experience that essentially runs from left to right. The ability to possess time-and-space jumps merely heightens gameplay that boils down to platforming puzzles. And depending on how patient and talented you are when it comes to solving them, that’s what you’ll mostly be doing along with following the narrative. It almost feels like a bite-sized adventure where the controls feel familiar and incredibly natural. As long as you’ve played any old-school platformers, you’ll feel right at home.
The gameplay is absolutely engaging, albeit only with a few controls and directions to keep up with. But its simplicity is where it ultimately shines: You’re here for a multiversal story that adorably (and often quite darkly) offers an easy experience for you to enjoy.
From what you’re probably seeing in the images provided, What Lies in the Multiverse embraces its nostalgic atmosphere with retro pixels. These are paired with vibrant backgrounds with dedicated work for both worlds. The Kid is able to switch between two worlds at almost any given time. The primary bright and modern world, and the more dystopian Upside Down-like world where death is intensely more present. Both are distinguished by their own color palettes, and they’re usually accompanied by their distinctive music, too.
It’s easy to say that the music is just a lot of fun to listen to, but that’s not sufficient. The musical composition for the game includes two soundtracks happening at the same time — in a way. Whenever you switch worlds, the music basically flips from cheerful with percussion to brooding with ominous tones, and vice versa. I probably sat for a good 10 minutes just switching worlds just so I could hear the similarities in the music. It’s a wonderful touch for a game that already comes packed with awesome writing and visuals.
A Quick Heads Up
I should warn those who have issues with epilepsy that they should tread lightly if they’re interested in playing the game. The developers do issue a caution before the main menu pops up, but I will say that there are some intense visuals here. It’s nothing drastic, but imagine retro pixels being toyed with a multiversal design that seemingly glitches the game. For example, sometimes when The Kid suddenly world-jumps, the screen stylish bugs out for a second. To the common eye, this is just a cool visual; for more sensitive ones, not so much. Just be sure to be careful if you think you may have trouble with certain visual elements.
What Lies in the Multiverse is a delightful indie experience that any retro fan will get a kick out of. While it may be a one-time playthrough with low replay value, it’s a title that excels in its nostalgic presentation. It’s got great characters, lovable writing, fun gameplay, and old-school graphics with a modern touch. Pixelated graphics with an engaging story don’t get better than this little adventure.
Final Score: 9/10
This review is based on an Xbox Series X download code provided by the publisher. What Lies in the Multiverse is available now on PS4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, and PC via Epic Games, GOG, and Steam.
C. Anthony Rivera is a freelance writer from Chicago, IL. He graduated from Columbia College with a degree in Writing and has been published on several gaming websites with reviews, news articles, and guides. He is currently working on a novel.