Throughout my childhood, it was the 90's. What an age.
A time when adventure games (and the occasional session of Mario Kart or LEGO Racers) were, by far, the best kind of games. 2D platforming king Donkey Kong Country 2, 3D adventure king Ocarina of Time, RPG king Final Fantasy VI (no, I didn't "skip" on that last Roman numeral, you snarky bastard), and the many others I either haven't played, can't remember or don't wanna bother listing because you may already know what most of this list would contain.
Mmm. The era of adventure. And Evoland knows it was great. It's premise is aptly described as "a short story of adventure video games evolution", and doesn't that sound just as great? Genius, really! I hadn't been this excited for an indie/arcade title since Twisted Pixel's Comic Jumper.
A game of this type, though, is always at great risk of relying too much on it's inspirations and references to hold it together, to keep the player going. Unfortunately, Evoland falls not too far from that sad little tree. While it may occasionally provide an engaging section of gameplay/story or worthwhile piece of satire, half the time it ends up shooting itself in the foot.
Evoland tries very hard to be this snappy, clever commentary on adventure/RPG titles, and, as I've said, sometimes it succeeds. But, how often it gets even a chuckle out of me is just not often enough.
It's lack of humor mostly rears it's head via these achievement-esque pop-up's. They are cute at first, but eventually they lose their charm from how often they appear and by the end they feel like nothing more than annoying distractions. As if some seasoned nerd was backseat gaming alongside you, forcibly chiming in about how much this or that reminds him/her of this other game or how hilariously tropish one of the game's features is.
Almost all of the game's genuinely good humor comes from stuff like the Diablo section, where all the loot names and descriptions are stuff like "+.01 to ear defense." or "Allows the player to turn into a dragon! 12 months cooldown time.". Or when the various, good people of Aogai (everytime I try to pronounce that, I feel really bad) keep you running throughout the town to find out just who has those bombs you're after.
Speaking of which, even a good handful of the NPC dialogue is worth a laugh and a half. Similar to the achievement dialogue, but at least it legitimately felt apart of the game. Connected, if you will.
Simply put: After a while, I started to feel as if these "achievements" would be better suited as another section of gameplay or they be reworked as NPC dialogue. It's all in the presentation. Funny achievements don't exactly read to me as top of the line comedy. Just like I've probably already had my fill of DLC prompts from Going Loud Studios' DLC Quest, the novel idea of sarcastic/quirky achievements has lost it's appeal.
However, even the non-achievement/unlock prompt humor doesn't always strike my funny bone. It's really all over the place.
When it comes to how the game plays and, more importantly, how it feels, it fairs a little bit better. Throughout the 2 or so hours it'll take to finish, you'll jump between many different classic types of adventure/RPG gameplay. From Zelda, to Final Fantasy, to Diablo, and to even what feels a bit like something taken straight out of a PS2 platformer.
The game's best quality is how seamless this all feels. Rather than dropping you straight into a totally different game, it dripfeeds you gameplay/aesthetic changes to a point where how the game eventually ends up from time to time feels like a natural shift. It's surprising how much the game itself doesn't suffer from some sort of identity crisis despite what it's premise might be.
In it's structure, Evoland is just Evoland.
But, where the game falls a bit short of "pretty good" is in how the game feels. At some point, I got to feeling the 3D combat was a little bit imprecise, and it's imperfections are made even more apparent during the last section of the final boss battle. Not always quite swinging where I want to be swinging.
Maybe... just maybe it wouldn't feel all that underwhelming if there was at least controller support. And you read that correctly. No need to wipe your eyes or slap your cheeks. A game heavily inspired by games like Final Fantasy and Zeldadoesn't have controller support. What the hell?
The turn-based combat is also thoroughly unimpressive. It does have it's moments (taking down a "Choboko" with my summoning spell was definitely the highlight of the entire game), but it usually boils down to spamming your partner's healing spell (since you don't have a mana bar to deal with) while you, the far more powerful one, attacks. Towards the end of the game, your partner does obtain a pretty nifty attack spell, but that only lends more to the game's lack of challenge.
For a few sections during the later half, though, Evoland does present itself with some interesting time traveling puzzles that are actually handled pretty damn well, but these along with a few other sparse moments are the only times when this game starts to feel at all really good.
Game Development 101: If you're half-hearted parody slash rip-off (for lack of a better way of putting it) of some game(s) feels that much worse than said game(s), then I'm not going to feel as if I should waste my time with it. I'd... rather be playing Zelda, Final Fantasy or Diablo.
I mean, if Darksiders didn't feel as good as it did, it's blatant Zelda/Devil May Cry/God of War-likeliness would've felt like a crutch. Like "Hey! Remember those great games? .... yeah! Don't you wish you were just playing those instead?". It didn't rely on those inspirations, it used them to help it become it's own thing.
Other problems include misspellings (whether they're very subtle references to choppy western localization or legitimate misspellings, I don't know), a laughably (not "haha" funny) abrupt and sudden ending, and some awful framerate drops during the Diablo section. While these are definitely nitpicks, it didn't seem like there was much to get right with Evoland. You make it funny and then you take a bunch of things from other games and structure them all into a very modest graphics engine.. and yet it still didn't feel all that polished.
It's all still, very much, more like a quick experiment as Evoland Classic was.
I really do honestly hate how cynical I've been with this game, because I wanted it to be awesome and it seems as if it easily could've been awesome.
I kinda wanna give it a second go around, just to be sure. Perhaps I took the game too seriously. Alas, though, this is how I feel for the time being. Evoland is a decent/solid game, but an incredibly mixed bag of loving but satirical humor.
I'm gonna move on to Anodyne and hope that fairs a good deal better. Fingers crossed, and goodnight!