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Evoland

Evoland

A retro walk through the evolution of RPGs.

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Evoland was initially conceived as an entry for an online developer contest. Teams had just 48 hours to create an original game. Nicolas Cannasse's creative entry saw players navigate a world where the game evolved as they progressed. Out of 1400 games, it won.

Having rapidly collected an enthusiastic following, Shiro games decided to produce a bigger and more advanced version of the game. The result is a creative trip through RPG history.

Initially players only have one option - move right. Follow this command and stumble across a chest. Opening the chest unlocks moving left. The game continues in this fashion- unlocking certain chests transforms the game world. Early on it's done on a small scale, but the further players push on, the more evolutions of RPG development become unlocked.

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The most obvious changes are in graphics. Initially the game is two-tone, similar to the original Gameboy. An early chest transforms the world into colour, not long after another reveals 256-colour; by the end of the game characters are 3D models traversing glorious HD textures.

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Graphics aren't the only things that intermittently leap forwards in quality. Quest further into Evoland and the great music becomes deeper, sound effects crisper, animations more abundant, and ways to play more advanced. It's an interesting dynamic that keeps the curiosity factor high. Wanting to see how things are going to transform is a worthy reason to keep going.

The obvious references are to Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy. When battling through areas, combat involves slashing monsters with swords, keeping an eye on health gauges and later firing arrows and using bombs. The gameplay frequently switches to a JRPG turn-based mechanic. Random encounters warp the heroes to an arena, battle music kicks in, and players overcome their enemies through a familiar series of menu prompts.

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The combination of game mechanics meshes quite well. The inclusion of both isn't as jarring as it could have been, though stats and abilities don't carry over between styles and it's never very challenging. It's a shame that monsters are predictable and easily vanquished. In turn-based sections, mana isn't an issue but there is a healing spell, making losing almost impossible. Some of the more engaging moments include a puzzle that involves going back and forth between graphical eras and a fantastically frantic Diablo-style dungeon.

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Plenty of jokes and nods to games gone by are packed into the relatively short story. After unlocking the option to enter houses, books can be found written by great developers including, ‘How to do Everything' by S. Miyamoto.

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As well as evoking fond memories, Evoland also reminds players of the frustrating ones. CD loading screens pop up until an in-game purchase updates the imaginary disc drive. Most of the humour works, but it can become tiresome, sometimes it even insults the games Evoland pays homage to.

Collectable stars and cards provide additional objectives, but these will only be pursued by the most dedicated completionist. Cards can be used in a side game, a reference to Final Fantasy. Playing this game is briefly enjoyable but unlikely to engross anybody for very long.

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The best thing about Evoland is its presentation. In particular, attention in detail has been paid to the look, feel and sounds of every era the game touches upon. It would have been fun to spend some more time playing through 8-bit eras before ramping up to 16-bit and 3D, which dominates the experience, leaving a craving for more classic design by the game's end.

Evoland is a good education for people who missed out on classic gaming, and will evoke forgotten memories in more practiced gamers. Unfortunately, despite a few good moments, there's almost no challenge. Clever and creative, but more of a love letter to classic games than a well formed game of its own, it's a niche title made to appeal to a niche audience.

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06 Gamereactor UK
6 / 10
+
+ Will evoke fond memories + Good attention to detail + Nice range of styles
-
- Short - Little challenge - Some sections over far too quickly
overall score
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Evoland

REVIEW. Written by Jon Newcombe

"Initially the game is two-tone, similar to the original Gameboy. An early chest transforms the world into colour, by the end characters are 3D models traversing glorious HD."



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