Evoland • PC • Available now
The concept in Evoland is one I’m surprised hasn’t reared its head sooner – a game that evolves itself from the RPG’s simplistic 8-bit beginnings to the more complex current high definition era. You can see obvious inspiration from The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest and even Diablo, as you can chart the evolution of a genre in a title that regularly hits its marks with content and humour.
Based off a flash game (now found on Shiro Games’ website), you start off in a heavily Game Boy inspired green and black world, unlocking abilities like 2D movement, scrolling screens, eventually working your way to colour. From there, Evoland throws references and knowing winks at you relentlessly. Whether it’s the three hearts system you unlock from the Zelda series, the ‘cutting-edge’ technology of Mode-7 or the sardonic signposts you find within the game, you know that everything is meant to refer to something and it largely succeeds. There are some notable misses though – the Diablo parody level is pretty poorly executed coming across as more of a joke that went too far than an homage, especially when compared to the slightly more fleshed out Zelda-style and turn based combat mechanics.
The story in itself is your pretty basic JRPG fare that relies heavily on the works it takes inspiration from. You’re not going to find the next Walking Dead here, but then you shouldn’t really expect too. However, it would have been nice to have something where the main story isn’t just a play-by-play of one of the most popular games ever made. References are nice, but this is more copy-paste and a rushed version at that.
There is also so much more that could have been done with the evolution mechanics. It’s nice to go back to areas where you were at a lower generation of graphics and find secret paths that you didn’t have access to before. However, your only reward for doing so is either a star collectible or a card for the Triple Triad inspired mini-game which itself has no reward or indeed any inclination to pursue after the first wink-wink nudge-nudge playthrough. It would have been nice to have had more interesting secrets like the game’s influencing Evoland had.
Also, there is a very good level involving ‘time-travel’ where you have to change the graphical era to complete the puzzles, but this is but a sole level. The rest are pretty much carbon copy homages to one of its four main inspirations. It would have been nice to maybe lay off the ham level references for some interesting dungeons that could be solved using graphical (d)evolution. However, then game ends far too soon and I guess that’s my problem with it. I understand both the financial limitations and time constraints of indie developers, but Evoland is just too damn short – my gameplay time was 3 hours and I’d done pretty much everything barring a few stars and cards. For a game whose scope sets out to be huge, it goes by too quickly (45 minutes in and everything was already 3D), especially when compared to the games it leans on.
The idea is excellent and game is charming, but the execution is lacking and unfortunately there’s just not enough content to justify the current price (£7).