Games come in all sizes and shapes. Whether it's from the epic RPG with a grand story, to the small puzzler, or the fast paced action game, gaming has always covered a wide range. Nowadays with the large indie market we see that more than ever as games from simple low-budget stuff to the giant AAA productions with all sorts of things being made.
However, generally these games are all about exploring their own ideas, where the history of gaming has been something always a bit endangered. While a new medium, there are relatively few game historians who track those things—you can see some of them with like Matt Barton's excellent work or the CRPG Book Project, but for the most part gaming history tends to be ignored in many ways. The industry, especially the large players and the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), haven't been much of a help there, especially with the ESA's attempt to destroy anything like proper museums or emulation of past generations.
Evoland as a series began to explore that area. In the original Evoland Classic made for Luudrum Dare, it took a look at what you could call I guess the adventure-rpg area dominated for so long by The Legend of Zelda. That small prototype did well enough to become the full Evoland 1 and was appreciated by many, though it had its flaws. Evoland 1 spent a lot of its historical look focusing on things like technology as the eras went by and how that changed over time, which was both its strength and weakness at times.
However we're here to talk about Evoland 2: A Slight Case of Spacetime Continuum Disorder, and that all matters, because like Evoland 1, Evoland 2 seeks to honor the history of gaming. However, while it does use some technology stuff, it is far from the focus of Evoland 2, and instead it decides to look at the games that have made gaming stand out. It looks to the various generes that have come and some of gaming's best ideas, and plays with them some, while celebrating everything gaming can be.
Evoland 2 uses a set of 3 main time periods—the past 50 years ago, the present, and 50 years in the future—each of which have their own art style and events going on. The art style changes here are the main thing that harken to the technological focus of Evoland 1, but they do very well fitting the idea of how things worked, and the future 3D stuff in particular stood out as very well done and smooth. That's not to say the past and present weren't—it's just at times for me they tended to run more together with their art styles, though there are definite differences as well.
In general though, while the different periods are a key feature to the game, the standout thing for Evoland 2 is the writing. Evoland , is quite simply in my opinion one of the smartest and wittiest written games I've seen in a long time. While Evoland 2 utilizes a lot of the same Hero's Journey path you're used to seeing in games, it executes it incredibly well for the most part and utilizes what is there to the best of its abilities, while surrounding it with a lot of incredibly smart writing.
The game pokes fun at tropes and expectations in games, as you might expect with this type of one. It has fun poking at itself, at real life, and all around. That's not to say that it's built to be a comedy but a game that doesn't take itself too seriously all the time, having a little fun in those moments where the player can smile thinking of all the little shoutouts the game does.
Beyond shoutouts and having fun, though, the game's writing, even with its own plot, is very smart and well-done. The main characters are well-realized generally speaking, and side characters tend to stand out with strong personalities that are quickly seen and memorable. The game uses the different time periods to its advantages as well to show different generations of how people have aged between those time frames. Additionally, when sometimes the world has changed most, of the lines get tweaked to reflect the new reality, especially in the second half of the game where those changes are more common.
While I am wanting to avoid spoilers in general, the game in particular made an excellent use of foreshadowing in my opinion. It did some excellent work laying the groundwork and also playing with the expectations of the player on that foreshadowing until it was ready to come back to it again. I don't want to spoil it here in the review, but I may do a follow-up piece taking a look at the story and writing of Evoland 2 as I felt that, generally speaking, it was superb.
The game also generally handles time travel well and deals with some of the ideas and themes of such a heavy use. It tends to ask questions, and while characters may voice their opinion, it's left to the player to decide if they agree or not—more information generally unfolds but not always in ways you expect. One of the recurring things that continues to come up is if you can change time, and while there are answers tossed back and forth, the final conclusion is yours to decide. The game does do a good job of reacting to what has changed, but how much actually matters is a question for you to decide.
That said there are a few times the game inevitably gets caught with on its temporal shoelaces outsmarting itself, or missing a minor bit. Looking at it, I think some of these were intentional to help support that question, but some of them I think were just misses that can happen accidentally from time to time even in a game with so much care put into it with as many characters and dialogue as the game has.
Evoland 2's includes a lot of straight up genre switches or playing the game that it's shouting out to in question essentially. While the main genre for it is a 3rd person RPG with a strong secondary Platformer, there are also segments of the following: Card game, Match 3, Shoot'em Up, Beat'em Ups, Fighting Game, Bomberman, Puzzler, Pong, side scroller, and strategy among several others. How long they are around varies—from a single game, to a small series, to a dungeon, or to a repeating thing—the various genres get varying amounts of screen time.[caption id="attachment_51766" align="alignnone" width="1920"] Hmmm... These seem oddly familiar....[/caption]
By and large the executions of them tends to be functional and relatively basic. While many games aim to explore mechanically deeper ideas or their own take, Evoland 2 instead goes for light mechanics in all those areas that function but aren't going to really stand out in any way. The RPG has a very (very) basic leveling system that is predefined, a simple equipment thing that is just 4 slots with straight upgrades, and the ability to level up through plot and collectibles special abilities of your companions. The rest of them are similarly shallow mechanically, and that's not a bad thing in general, because you don't play any of the modes long enough to make a deeper experience really necessary—though a bit more on the RPG and Platformer wouldn't have hurt given how often they are used.
The transition in game modes is an area that can be somewhat abrupt, though it varies. Some of them are executed very well and organically from the situations that it feels like a perfect flow. Others, like most of the platformers, feel a bit more forced—some of that may just be that platformers and RPGs have often stolen from each other and overlapped, as well as both being used inside dungeons at different times.
The three companions you have are a key element to the game as they help provide a lot of the life and personality given your character is the traditional silent protagonist. Using their canonical names, Fiona is basically your general female lead from the small town—nice, earnest girl next door. Menos is the prince of Demons and tends to be the broody one of the group. as well as the straight man. Velvet is the scholar archaeologist who tends to posit odd theories and get into things. The three of them have some excellent banter and give the game a real charm as they are more than just that short description.
Each also has special powers that can be used to help you in almost all the genres you play. Menos has a giant slam/earth tremor attack that can break boulders, Fiona's is a wind blade style ability, and Velvet has an ice book that she can send out ice rays with to freeze people. While they tend to be interpreted differently in some of the genres, the fact that your friends are there to help is one of the few mechanical bits that keep everything tied together.
The first half of Evoland 2 is pretty linear, as you don't have any control over time travel or have any real understanding of what is going on. You are going from spot to spot basically as you work things out and trying to get out of trouble, figure out what the hell is going on, and eventually you end up into the second half of the game.
Here you meet Ceres, and with her you get a quest that is basically get the macguffins, but what order you go in is all up to you. Now you can choose what time period to go to between past, present, and future and can travel about to get to the different spots and partake in the different quests and game plays as well as explore the different time periods and what happens to them when you do something in one time period.[caption id="attachment_52914" align="alignnone" width="1920"] so Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right A B control the time period you're going to right?[/caption]
Evoland 2 also has a good amount of collectibles that you can find. Basically none of them are mandatory, but there's the 61 cards for the card game found throughout the time periods by playing and opening chests, a bunch of Orikion Ore for the "ult gear," Maana for upper level specials from your teammates, and 30 Collectible Stars. I didn't get them all myself, ending up at about the 80% completion mark with over half the cards and 21 of the stars and not getting all the gear or specials, but for those who like hunting about for those it is a nice time addition. You also have to figure out what time period to go in and sometimes puzzle it out like that. The game does provide some help there in the end game with a chest radar that is nice if you want to pick it up.
Overall, Evoland 2: A Slight Case of Spacetime Continuum Disorder is more than the sum of its parts. It's a labor of love that celebrates the best of gaming and takes you through a wonderfully written tale. While there were some technical issues, it was relatively minor with some texture errors and a couple crashes through my playtime, but it has been improved since the preview and there's every reason to believe the team at Shiro Games will continue to do so.
A key to review this was provided by the developer via a pr agency.