Saturday, December 7, 2013

Full Review: Evoland

Evoland began life as a flash game,  and winner of the Ludum Dare 24.  The theme of the contest was evolution, and I can see why this game won, it is very clever and well executed, especially for being created in a mere 40 hours!   The flash game is now called Evoland Classic, and the downloadable PC/Steam game has taken the title Evoland.  I strongly recommend playing the original (free) flash game before playing the downloadable.  It takes about five to ten minutes to play through, and is a charming bit of fun. 

The current Evoland takes the original game and expands it.  The graphical development moves into full 3d, with turn based battles and other RPG tropes.  The result is about 2 hours of light-hearted fun and nostalgia, with a few different gameplay and graphical modes.  The concept is strikingly similar to one of my own ideas, but there are differences, which I will get into at another time.  

Evoland *itself* has evolved.  Whoa. Meta. 

I was initially expecting a more robust gaming experience, and I reacted poorly after playing about 45 minutes.  But having beaten the game once, and adjusted my expectations accordingly, I think that Evoland is a decent game.  Even though the nostalgia is directed at older players who played games in the late 90s, I think of it as a great game for children. 

This game lends itself to being played over and over again, and the action is simple enough that it might be easily understood by one not used to this style of game.  In addition, the bright colors and superdeformed character design may appeal to children.  Not to mention, the various references to jRPG and Action/Adventure game tropes may lay a nice foundation for the real deal.  

As a fan of retro games, I wish the designers had spent more time in the 8-bit and 16-bit, two dimensional realm.  The bulk of the gameplay takes place after the transition to 3d, and it also seems to drag a bit at that part.  Particularly when the random encounter rate seems to be just too high, and the experienced gained in those battles, rather pointless.  

Evoland is a game that bit off more than it could chew. While it has many different gameplay modes, it doesn't do any of them particularly well. On my initial play, I expected to see mechanical changes progressing with the graphics, but it didn't work that way.  There is very little mechanical depth.  This works for the game in the sense that it keeps it very light.  On the other hand, I had higher expectations.  

Ultimately, this game plays like a demo for a much better game, or perhaps an Animal Crossing mini-game. If you want to play an indie Zelda clone, I recommend Anodyne.  And if you want to play a jRPG parody, I recommend Breath of Death 7 or Cthulu Saves the World.  I can't recommend purchasing Evoland for anything more than $5.  But really, with price tags that low, why not buy all of them?  


Evoland Summary

The Good:
Fun, light-hearted atmosphere.  Funny.  Fantastic graphics, excellent monster design.  Really clever concept.  Multiple Gameplay Modes, emulating The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy VI/VII and Diablo/Gauntlet Legends.  

The Bad:
Lack of Gameplay depth.  'Evolution' Theme is flimsy - graphics upgrade in a linear way, but gameplay mechanics seem random.  Frustrating difficulty at times, especially in the Diablo Section.  Different gameplay modes don't affect one another much.  The overworld encounter rate is way too high.  No camera control.  

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