Note: I re-reviewed this game in 2017. Please disregard this original review.
It’s no question that games have changed dramatically over the thirty plus years they’ve been in the popular culture. Sure, that can be said about nearly every medium, as time alters and most often enhances it as it grows bigger and attracts more and more creators to reshape the medium into something nobody would ever think of back during its birth. Which is the best introduction I can think of to talk about a game about video game evolution, creatively called Evoland. Which I’ve got about a page of things to say about.
Release Date: 04/4/2013
Platform: PC (reviewed) and Mac
Developer: Shiro Games
Publisher: Shiro Games
Rig: AMD FX-8320, 8GB of RAM, Radeon HD 7770, Windows 7 64-bit
Evoland begins by dropping off a little hero boy in a world that looks straight out of a Gameboy title. Which does not last for long as you run into a treasure chest, and gradually unlock various enhancements to the world. Four-direction movement, a color palette, background music and so forth. Eventually going all the way to a fully 3D world, where the textures evolve in parallel. All of which is a very gradual climb through a loose representation of video game history. While also being a shameless love letter to Final Fantasy and Zelda.
However, an interactive display of the visual evolution of games is not necessarily much of a game. The actual playing of Evoland is going through a very simple 2D Zelda game, slashing at bats and Octoracs, that is their actual name, while exploring the ever evolving forest. But the game quickly opens up an overworld, toses in mode 7, and brings with it turn based battles, with an active time system much like the SNES Final Fantasy titles it visually represents shortly after the battles are brought on in.
Dungeon spelunking is eventually introduced in short little bursts after the game makes the jump into looking like an untextured Dreamcast title before lathering on textures of various quality. Which is around where the introduction of new gameplay modes stop excluding a Diablo area and a final boss right out of Klonoa. Yet, as is to be expected from a team of five with one guy only there to make the very appropriate tunes, there is a level of polish that I can’t help but find to be lacking.
For instance, the turn based battles are quite droll due to how there are only a smidget of commands ever available, with most battles very much devolving into either mashing A to win, or using the healer every step of the way as a form of ultimate strategy due to the absence of MP. Even then, the battles are so unnecessarily common that you’re bound to encounter the same sets of foes five times when you only need to travel a few screens to get anywhere in the game. While the Zelda-esc sections feel a tad too hectic at times, with certain rooms being filled with reskinned Darknuts and Wizzrobes.
That, and in my ever stupid quest to obtain everything that can easily be attained in a game came back to haunt me. Sending me back through the often very linear sections that later involve time manipulation just because I missed a star certainly hindered my pseudo-nostalgia rush. Which does indeed represent the rest of the game, because aside from optional backtracking, or exploring the the world in the airship you got from a man named Sid. As if the prerendered backgrounds of one town weren’t clear enough ways of saying that the creators really dug Final Fantasy VII.
In fact, the amount of devotion to paying tribute to that title is more evident than any other, despite how the as an RPG, the game is so shallow it couldn’t get your shoes wet. You’ve got the legendary Buster Blade at the end and are going after a guy named Zephyros. Which is an understandable nod, but there is a difference between making something look similar to a famous character, than just taking the same character design, have someone else draw it, and change their name by a handful of letters.
Especially considering how much effort had to go into making all of the unique visual styles. Most of them are kapet segmented to an area. Meaning that not the entire world can be viewed from any point in the graphical timeline, but the amount of art styles in play, and their polish is quite plausible. Although, in my previously aforementioned backtracking, I couldn’t help but notice how some areas were only available in 2D, after the entire world was supposedly reshaped into polygons.
However, the question of whether or not it is fun must be brought up. I can’t necessarily deny that the game is quite surface level on many of the things it emulates, with the Diablo section almost feeling like the creators are insulting the game by oversimplifying the combat. Taking it as a linear stroll through technical evolutions in the industry, Evoland is a certainly competent trek. Though far from the most potent execution of the ideas it set forth.
A solid title that may be lacking in an infinite amount of different ways, or just a few big and difficult to ignore issues. Varies based on the title, but still worth giving it a go overall!