Every once in a while, we return to games we loved in years past. From puzzlers to arcade games to minimalist gems, Android's vaults have something for everyone, and you can read about them here in our occasional series called Classic Game Reviews.
Evoland offers a standout gaming experience that belies its subtle presence in the Google Play Store. More than just another RPG clone, it's an interactive journey through the evolution of adventure RPGs, and the history of gaming. The game starts out as a monochrome 2D game but quickly changes and evolves as you discover and unlock chests that add color, textures, a storyline, and much more. The gameplay is deeply nostalgic, and changes to parody classic games and gameplay styles — from free-roaming adventure (Zelda), to the turn-based battles found in JRPGs (Final Fantasy VII) to clearing out demonic dungeons (Diablo).
The game was originally developed in 2012 by Nicolas Cannasse as part of, Ludum Dare, a 48-hour game jam where the competitors were given theme of "evolution". Cannasse decided to create an RPG game that explored the history of the RPG genre, where the game's graphics and gameplay evolve as the player progresses through the story. Evoland would go on to win first place in the competition and earn accolades for its brilliant design.
Ported to Android in 2015 by Shiro Games and Playdigious, Evoland has been kind of overlooked on the Google Play Store likely due to its $4.99 price tag. But it's well worth checking out if you're a hardcore RPG fan, or even if you're the type who finds RPGs to be boring and repetitive. Because the way the game evolves and changes as you play helps to alleviate the grinding nature of some RPGs, shifting gears from area to area which not only keeps everything feeling fresh, but also compels you to keep playing to unlock that next feature.
What could have felt gimmicky never does, as the different gaming evolutions really give each area of the map a unique but the novelty never wears off and is cleverly used to denote time travel — hit a time crystal with your weapon and the game goes from third-person perspective in 3D to a top-down, pixel-laden landscape. Your character is able to access different areas by switching between the different styles and it's a really fun and well-executed game mechanic.
My biggest criticism of the game is the touchscreen controls, which change slightly based on the evolution and are simply awful in some sections. One particular hidden ruin with floor panels that fall into a pit of lava when your character steps close would be clever and challenging with a Bluetooth controller in hand, but instead, you're punished for being off by a bit and ends up feeling like the developer was just troll the player. An epic boss battle is also hampered by similarly frustrating control issues, which is disappointing.
But while that particular section was frustrating as hell, it still felt like part of the overall theme of the game and the journey that Evoland takes you on, perhaps parodying some of the needlessly frustrating puzzle sections thrown into some games. That might sound like weak justification for a poorly designed level, but given the attention to detail, tongue-in-cheek humor, and a treasure trove of gaming references and tropes you can't discount that it was included to specifically be frustrating. The main storyline only takes a few hours to complete, and then you can keep playing to collect the 30 hidden stars and collector cards which you can use to play a simple card game.
Evoland is an easy recommendation for anyone who's called themselves a gamer in the past 30 years. It's an awesome concept for a game feels like a stroll through your childhood gaming memories. It's only shortcomings really are the lack of controller support and the story length — both which could be addressed if the sequel Evoland 2 ever comes to Android.
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