What’s better than a video game that makes nods to the video game industry’s History? Well okay, probably a lot of things according to some, but that’s beside the point. Thing is, how do you integrate that into the game? Well, at least one title out there has found a novel and interesting way to do so.
Evoland, developed and published by Shiro Games in 2013, is the story of ????? (His official name is Clink, but you can give him a name of your own later), in a world that is mostly a parody/hybrid of Zelda and Final Fantasy. But it’ll be a while before you can do anything related to that. As the game starts, your character can only move to the right. Then he gets to a treasure chest that says he can now move to the left! And now a treasure chest on the left allows him to move up and down! And then you find another chest that scrolls the screen, allowing you to explore the world! OH MY GOD, FREEDOM!
|I CAN MOVE|
THIS IS THE GREATEST DAY OF MY LIFE
I HAVE SPENT YEARS ONLY CAPABLE
OF GOING TO THE RIGHT
|"Double Twin"? That sounds like a fun game, boy!|
Because yes, there are secrets in this game – namely, multiple treasure chests contain stars or trading cards. The inventory screen, brought up with the Tab key, lists the total number of stars and cards to find, and how many you’ve found so far. Backtrack if necessary, but you gotta find them all!
|Good ol' slimes. What would an RPG game be without|
them as the first enemies?
Oh, right - original.
|The Magical Seed of Instant Aging: In a water well near you!|
You get to the first village and you have to unlock treasure chests to gain access to an inn, a shop, and even NPCs. They refuse to talk to a child, so you find yourself forced to go on a mini-quest to find a seed that brings your character to adulthood, because who sends children on deadly quests across the land??? And, y'know... childhood is overrated anyway, right?
|"Party unlocked! Not of the celebratory kind."|
And so we have a first cave in which we battle enemies and a boss in the RPG style, followed by a dungeon that starts off as pretty empty. Yes, you unlock dungeon features as you move forward, such as keys in chests, pressure plates, and everything else.
From there, we move to the next area, with a new town in which we acquire bombs. And, of course, that means we have to backtrack through the whole game to find any secrets we may have missed because we needed the bombs to blow up obstacles in the way. Never mind all the silly backtracking required to get the bombs from a villager!
|We've gone 3D, there is no turning back!|
Also of note, we are definitely in Zelda Land now. Heart quarters,
a wizard shooting fire, wall breakable with a bomb, a dungeon,
a locked door... Link called, he wanted his world back.
|Going against the one Double Twin player in the village?|
Good luck. He's the only one because he kept beating
everybody else and they all got annoyed.
|For the record, that kid chasing the butterfly is the one|
who has the bombs.
Kids, amirite? So glad I chose to turn into an adult.
|Only one place where you can go back and forth between|
the past and the present. Also, anything can activate these
stones. That might be a failsafe.
Oh yeah, that area has a big puzzle element that switches between past (2D graphics and present (3D graphics). At that point in the game, you’ve been 3D for a while, so a throwback to the two-dimensional look is refreshing, even if ultimately its main purpose is to beat a puzzle.
|Enemies everywhere! Masses of baddies!|
Which, we can all destroy easily.
|This is probably the best boss fight in the game...|
I mean, it's my opinion, like everything on here.
And yes, like every other area in the game, this one pokes fun at plenty of video game elements, especially the body-based equipment upgrades that are dropped randomly by enemies (though, here, every single one is absolutely pointless). For our troubles, we get the second amulet piece, which opens the dark tower in the corner.
|An enemy called Zerphyros, killing a character|
named Aeris... Subtle. /sarcasm
Oh, I'm such a drama llama.
|The jokey tone of the references up to that point kind|
of steal the emotion from that scene, unfortunately.
Might as well say it outright, the references in the game are blatant and obvious. Making a game that relies on references is a tricky thing, actually: Sure, you slip in a lot of jokes for those who know what you’re parodying, and everyone gets a kick from recognizing something they know. And on top of that, Evoland makes references mostly to famous series, not just the ones mentioned so far, but also Dragon Quest, Diablo and even Skyrim.
|Please tell me it's the knee. Don't tell me it's up the...|
|I am the superstar!|
Besides, after Aeris passes and Zephyros retreats to the Mana Tree, Clink inherits an Airship that lets him travel all over the map, though it doesn’t allow him to land on forests (sounds familiar?). Super-useful to visit the whole map quickly and find the missing collectibles. Also, it’s the only way to access some bonus dungeons and areas, many of which contain some of the collectibles. You’ve got plenty of time, there’s almost no story left anyway. But hey, let’s cover that while we’re here.
|That's a pretty badass final boss.|
And so Zephyros is defeated, and we don’t get much of an ending, but at least that was a fun game.
So yeah, I enjoyed this one! I was going in, expecting a game that goes all-out with the evolution of gaming (it’s in the name after all), and the game mostly delivers. It goes from colorless games with minimal gameplay to a full-on 3D game with RPG combat, dungeon crawls, puzzle areas, forests to visit, bonuses and… well, a full game basically.
|Airship review: Pretty decent, kinda big, cannot land over|
forests. 1/10, can't do barrel rolls.
I’m actually a little disappointed that the game becomes a bit too “normal” after its awesome set-up where it was to evolve along with your progress. Sure, there are late-game dungeons that involve time-travel puzzles, and those force the game to shift between 3D and 2D, but that’s about it. Maybe one could include in there the final battle, taking place around a fully three-dimensional arena instead of just being a hack-and-slash with 3D graphics on an otherwise 2D plane. The shift between styles is interesting as well, seeing sprites evolve and later turn into 3D models, and so do the enemies of the overworld map. The UI and gameplay is also shaken up a bit every once in a while, adding new elements depending on which game is currently being ripp-I mean, homaged, such as the Diablo system in the cave where you look for an Amulet piece.
|Chestnuts and a turtle. Why is that familiar...|
|That "DANGER!" logo seems awfully familiar too...|
I recommend Evoland. It’s good stuff. Feel free to check it out whenever you feel like it.