Games generally aim to have what is known as a mechanical identity—a certain set of mechanics the game is easily identified with. This generally ties in heavily with genre conventions, as genres are defined by their mechanics, and games use that as the base, twisting it some to create their own mechanical identity. Mechanical identity is one of only a few ways games can stand out, and how stressed it is varies from game to game but few toss it away entirely as it is a big way to help make a game look just a bit different.
However, note I said few, not none. Evoland 2: A Slight Case of Spacetime Continuum Disorder essentially tosses away any singular mechanical identity, because it opts to have an identity of multiple mechanical identities that make up parts of the game. The sequel to the successful Evoland 1, Evoland 2 was announced to be significantly more ambitious than its predecessor and also to learn from it as well. While Evoland 1 was at times critiqued for the fact that it was an expansion of Evoland Classic, a game jam game that left some of its roots showing in Evoland 1, Evoland 2 wasn’t attempting to expand upon that and went its own way at times.
Like Evoland 1, Evoland 2 does deal a lot with the history of video games; however, instead of dealing with the adventure games in the vein of Zelda … Evoland 2 is dealing with the history of games much more generally. While there are several genres focused on–RPG and Platformer have stood out in my experience–a lot of genres and popular or historic games get brought into the blend.
Evoland 2‘s identity is in the mix of genres and in theme, not in mechanics. There are several key themes that I’ve seen so far throughout Evoland 2, but a few will stand out to people and are what it will likely be identified by. Looking at and remembering gaming’s past, present, and future is the first theme, with the inclusion of multiple time periods and poking fun at many gaming conventions. Those are what Evoland 2 will be identified as and the first ties into the only real mechanical identity the game has.
The mechanical identity that people will associate with Evoland 2 is that it is has a lot of different things in it. While the transitions aren’t always smooth in implementation, its identity is that it’s a game where you play a basic third person RPG, a platformer, a shootem’up, a fighting game, and more all in one. The only constant parts are the main character and his allies, who, regardless of what genre Evoland 2 has opted for, can almost always offer a special ability to help the main character. Whether it’s Velvet freezing enemies in a charge up tactical move, firing ice crystals in the rpg when you ask for her help, or freezing tiles in match 3, the allies’ ability to help tends to transcend genre and does give a consistent bedrock.
That’s not to say that the game suffers from a lack of identity, however. The game oozes in charm and fun and there are tons of things there just for gamers. For example, at one point relatively early on in the game you have to choose a name in a coliseum. The list of choices is definitely a set of call outs to classic games as you can see:
Of course it doesn’t end with poking a bit of fun at games. Especially in the future time frame there’s lots of jabs at modern society, poking fun at different things like how we ignore things around us or the fact that many people merely want to appear busy as smug workaholics instead of actually doing something.
While there’s a lot more to talk about in Evoland 2, I want to save a lot of that for the review that’s less than 2 weeks away. So far Evoland 2: A Slight Case of Spacetime Continuum Disorder has been a blast to play, with sharp, witty writing; a good visual mix; and just plain fun. Evoland 2 will be coming out on August 25th to Windows systems with Mac and Linux to follow.