Evoland Is A Short But Sweet Taste Of Gaming's Past
Evoland is a 'playable history of the action adventure genre' by Shiro Games, and is available on Steam and GoG. You play as the hero of the land (named Clink), and your mission is to save the very world you inhabit. At the start of the game, though, you can only walk left. A few seconds later, after unlocking your first treasure chest, you're able to walk right. The next chest unlocks screen scrolling, allowing you to leave the starting area.
This progresses for the first forty or so minutes of the game, in which with each chest you unlock, you get more and more 'improvements' to the gameplay, much the same way gamers of the '80s and '90s did during each console generation. After the first hour, you get a nice plateau of Link to the Past inspired graphics and puzzle solving in true Zelda fashion. Bombs, arrows, and sword swipes, alongside melodic music and push-block puzzle solving in dungeons accompany you for the next thirty minutes. Then, your reward is a world map, in which you can travel from town to town, discover caves, and fight in turn-based battles identical to Final Fantasy. After a few sidequests, you unlock 3D, a new sword (you'll never guess which one), and pre-rendered backgrounds, placing you right smack dab in a PSX era Final Fantasy.
Once the FFVII-inspired graphics are unlocked, the puzzle-solving gets a bit more interesting: On the world map, you fight in turn-based, 'Active Time Battle' fights, while in the caves/dungeons, you still fight in Link to the Past style, with heart meters and all. You'll stumble upon large crystals which can send you 'forward or backwards' in time, meaning you can go from FFVII to Link to the Past's graphics with the push of a button. Not only is it a cool visual touch, but puzzles have to be solved by mixing and matching your timelines, as certain areas that are accessible for LttP's 2D overhead camera, become inaccessible for our 3D counterpart. These were my favorite puzzles of the game, but sadly, there weren't enough of them.
That's sort of my main criticism with Evoland: For as much as I loved the mixing of genres, the genre progression humor, and the hidden goodies, it still felt like there wasn't enough to really find a groove. I completed the game in about 9 hours, but when I say 'completed', I mean I left no stone unturned: I have a 100% cleared save file, unlocked every Steam achievement, and was even congratulated in the credits of the game for a 'Full Clear'.
That's where we hit a fork in the road. With less than 10 hours of playtime, Evoland seems to walk a fine line that I still can't decide on: Is it short enough to not wear out its welcome, or is it just a *tad* too short, to feel cheated of a full, complete experience? If the game would go on longer, would it be padding just for the sake of padding? Should the game actually be SHORTER, and rely on its rapid-fire wit for two hours, then roll credits? I don't think I can answer that alone, as I know where I stand on Evoland, but it's an answer that will change depending on who you ask.
For me? I loved my time with Evoland. There were a few flat pacing moments, especially when you take multiple visits to the same areas to find the final few collectables (trading cards, and stars), but the highlights more than make up for it. It hits all the right notes, had me laughing out loud a few times, and had me genuinely looking forward to discovering what Evoland had to offer.
Nostalgia's pretty powerful, especially for me. As a huge fan of Link to the Past, Final Fantasy VII, Diablo, and silly sidegames in my RPGs, it seems like Evoland was a blueprint game, a proof-of-concept, made precisely for me. It can be pandering, it can be homage, and for a majority of the game, it's clearly both, but that's okay. I got my money's worth from Evoland, and even though I did a full clear on my first playthrough, this may be one of those games I'll load up every few years, for a nice weekend getaway.
Would I want a 40 hour Evoland? In some respects, sure. I'd rather Shiro Games create their own RPG or action adventure though, keeping the spirit of the games they love, with the creativity I know they have. While it's nice to play games LIKE Link to the Past and Final Fantasy VII, sometimes Evoland had me wishing I was actually PLAYING Link to the Past or Final Fantasy VII. That's not to say that Evoland's a poor-man's copy, or lacking in creativity, it's that if you're drinking a thimble of soda that tastes exactly like Coke, why wouldn't you just drink a full Coke afterwards? It's safe, its familiar, and it gives more bang for the buck.
Like I said, I really loved my time with Evoland, and I highly recommend it for anyone who wants a fresh take on classic ideas: Just know that the ideas are literally a one-to-one mirror of the games you knew and loved, and while there's just enough to scratch that itch and put a smile on your face, you'll probably just be left wanting more.