The player character accidentally gets sucked into the multiverse and tags along with Everett, a man with the power to freely swap between universes using his stolen staff.
Each chapter of the game, Everett will let you swap into a different universe with a different mechanic, like one that reverses gravity or one that makes you slowly run out of air. The universes also have different platforms and objects in each of them, which means that to solve puzzles and get around, you need to swap back and forth.
Your core puzzle-solving and platforming tools are jumping, clambering, running, pushing blocks, and flipping levers. Over the course of the story you get different kinds of blocks and levers, but no extra movement mechanics, so the game really feels more like a puzzle game.
Unfortunately, your running speed is positively glacial. Any time I realized I had gone to the wrong side of a room and had to run back across, I groaned because of how slow the game felt. Add in things like pushing blocks, carrying boxes, pulling and climbing ladders, and waiting for moving platforms, and it takes a long time to get anything done even once you see the solution to a puzzle.
The game starts off with hilariously simple puzzles that make the game feel even slower. Once it gets into its stride through, the puzzles aren’t original, but they are engaging when they’re not dragged down by the lethargic pace.
However, the puzzles have a bad habit of hiding the puzzle solution off-screen. Since you can only see one universe at a time, the solution is often found by swapping back and forth until you see what’s different. On top of that, you often have to run to an area off-screen to see a button or box that’s crucial to solving the puzzle, and it’s not fun to simply look for puzzle elements rather than to actually scratch my head at the solution.
Across the course of the story, Everett is pursued because his stolen staff is causing some problems in the multiverse. Overall, the story is boring material well-executed. For example, several cutscenes are simply Everett teleporting ahead and telling you to find your own way, which feels pointless. When it’s not wasting time, it’s a slapstick comedy that isn’t laugh-out-loud funny but is cute and got a couple of smiles from me. But later on the story suddenly wants to be taken dead seriously about grief and death, and it’s just mediocre.
I hesitate to say it’s a bad story. It’s just a decent story that doesn’t land well enough to justify its prominence.
The pixel art, while simple, animates well and has a lively feel to it. The music is enjoyable and fitting as well, and the cutscenes in particular mesh the sound and animation into a stylish whole.
My biggest issue with What Lies in the Multiverse is that it just doesn’t leave an impact. Slow puzzle-solving combined with a fun but generic story led to a game I’m sure I’ll forget about in a few months.
If you like universe-swapping puzzles, don’t mind the slow platforming, and are okay with a very on-the-nose story, there’s a lot to love in this game. But if you detest block puzzles, dislike walking slowly across a room, or get irritated with characters repeating the same pattern of conversation, I wouldn’t recommend this one.
What Lies in the Multiverse is out now on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC for $14.99.
Watch the Review in 3 Minutes for What Lies in the Multiverse.