So after the first Evoland, you can imagine I was not excited for a sequel. In fact, when it came out, I was dreading the idea of even giving it a shot as it seemed like a mess of different genres. However, with a sequel having more budget and being a longer game, Evoland 2 could have the opportunity to make something out of this type of variation and despite it might end up being a mash of genres, maybe it could be a fun and bizarre journey at least?
Did we need more story?
After an introduction that is meant to raise some questions and suspense, you, as the hero of the story, wakes up in the bed of someone who rescued you. Due to (of course) having amnesia, you don’t remember what happened or even your name. Uncertain on what else to do, the girl who rescued you recommends that you go to the forest nearby you were found in order to rekindle your memories. After doing some sidequests to gain a sword and permission to leave, of course.
This is indeed a simple plot and a cliche one at that. Although it tries to be more dramatic soon after by involving time-traveling, a war where good and bad is not as clear as it seems at first, and even a couple of character-developments for your companions; all are familiar references to other games Evoland 2 tries to make you nostalgic over. It makes the overall plot not appealing and hard to really care about saving the world, as it does nothing to make this stand out. If they just stuck with being simple and sweet, that could have been enough, but going further to add depth by adding variety without substance, makes it hard to praise the plot for anything. It is an odd mix of wishing to be simple, but also being afraid to bore the player.
Though the characters are quite uninteresting, the exception to this is one demon-character you will take along. While the rest lack personality or are just there for a punchline, this character has an interesting personal struggle that is tied with his political role and it is intriguing to see how this doesn’t just affect him, but also his family. It actually made him memorable, though he is unfortunately the only one, as the rest of the cast are simple with little personality. This is also due to the overall dialogue being lackluster with no interesting characters. The worst, is a girl that will stick by you, state the obvious, and is oblivious to the fact that you time-traveled for far too long. At least about 50% of the references you can accidentally encounter are adorable and subtle. Though sadly, the rest are just reaching for straws, like the 4 ninja squirrels which is an odd connection to the heroes in half-shells.
The only other part I did enjoy, was when the heroes talked about time-traveling and became philosophical of it. What consequences will happen, are they bound to a time loop where events will be played out either way, and what should they really do? This is only one part though, and after 14 hours, I just did not care what happened, why it did and who it affected. What could hold up this game, is if they just focused on jokes instead of being serious, but the tone is all over the place. It is kinda like hearing a good joke for the 10th time, with some of these events taking place in a funeral or at an important meeting. You are going to get tired or even upset with it to the point where you don’t even care about the punchline anymore.
Story Score: 3/10
Instead of one loose genre, let’s go all out
Instead of starting out with the basics and forcing the player to discover what even a health-bar is, Evoland 2 at least feels like a proper start to an action-adventure game, with a health-bar, XP-bar, and providing a sword for the journey ahead. The game starts with an overhead view and an overworld map taking you to different areas. Each area will be swarming with enemies to kill and provide you XP, which levels up your attack, defense, and health automatically. Equipment is also automatically equipped, but at least there are plenty of them, both hidden and purchasable. It also only gives you a sword and armor to put on, so the game clearly wants to be simple and easy to approach.
However, this does not excuse the average combat. Enemies don’t change much in attacks, and while the sword covers a good range, since our hero swings it instead of stabbing this time, the hit-detection is off. You do get some charge-attacks that use the partner’s ability, who can either take out enemies in different manners or effect an environmental object in the overworld, but due to the fact that you have to charge it, it makes it tedious whenever you have to do so for a puzzle. This holds especially true for when the hit-detection is uneven. The boss-fights can be slightly better, but only those requiring thinking to defeat them rather than straight up combat. These are at least somewhat entertaining, despite being too easy or drawn out with long health-bars.
I also despise the traps throughout the dungeons or the fetch-quests you are forced on, as both feel like a way to arbitrarily lengthen the game or make it harder, with no interesting gimmicks. These are just roadblocks to extend time or force you to grind to become stronger. Though what Evoland 2 actually does greatly, is creating entertaining puzzles for the dungeons, requiring a keen eye and planning on how to approach a room. Be it a light-puzzle, or just figure out how to get further by block-pushing, it is all a good time. In fact, there are some actual puzzles as well that would fit right at home in a Layton-game (which it obviously references), and these are intriguing brain-teasers. However, the other genres Evoland 2 takes on are a complete mess.
Sections that are, at best, average, are the stealth-segments that have well laid out levels and enemies with shadows, though guards do have unclear fields of vision, and a decent Guitar Hero rhythm game with you using the D-pad that has enough intensity to be mildly entertaining. I did also find, at least,the turn-based strategy-game average at least, but it was too easy to provide any decent challenge. The rest is garbage however. A poor Bomberman-clone with no interesting enemies or intriguing layouts, a Bejeweled-clone that tries to have RPG-elements, a repetitive beat ‘em up with only a couple of neat moves and no enemy-variety, a time-based RPG with minimal options for strategy, autorunning with basic platforming, a Street Fighter 2-clone with poor combo’s, literally Space Invaders that is just shamelessly put in, and tons of terrible mini-games that are rather fetch-quests or gives too little time for you to do well.
This is the biggest problem of Evoland 2: it tackles so many genres and has no idea what to do with most of them. Because they happen so rarely or for short bursts, they never get enough time to develop, which makes them become minimal diversions or unfinished nods to other games. Though besides the puzzles, there are actually a couple others that are at least decent. The 2D-platforming does provide some variety to layouts and monsters, with nice ways to teach you how to use new elements. My favourite is how it teaches you wall-climbing and how you can’t jump on them and must be creative when there is a gap between you and the platform. The other one is a simple bullet-hell with one power-up and decent boss-fight. Those that are enjoyable, however, only take up about 30-35% of the game, so that might not say much.
With a game that lasts 14 hours at least, you will start begging for it to end as soon as possible, despite what was above average or even great. Due to taking on so many genres, none gets to evolve or become interesting, and it all feels like a complete mess. There is nothing wrong with being simple, but you have to provide something that makes your gameplay last and become engaging. Instead, Evoland 2 brings tons of different gameplay-styles, with none lasting long enough to become great. Except for the puzzles.
Gameplay Score: 3.5/10
Variety vs details
One of my biggest complaints for the visuals in Evoland was the lack of variety. This Evoland 2 has severely changed, providing different areas with huge castles, arenas, haunted forests, snowy shores, a game-boy land and much more, providing a rich land. I also love that they are changed well with significant differences between time-periods, which are highlighted between 8-bit, 16-bit and 3D presentation with more than just the visual quality, which is very clever for a game about time-traveling. There are, of course, tons of references, with some clever implementations like having a creeper from Minecraft in a Bomberman-segment.
Unfortunately, not all is great. The 3D-areas do not look good with terrible texture, and the interface doesn’t change with the world and stays in bit-quality. In fact, everything stays in the same quality, including the music, neglecting the atmosphere of being transferred to a different world, which is sorely needed to go along with the presentation. Some references are also quite random, like the references to Monty Python’s: Holy Grail, and while the world is varied, it relies on cliches and makes it all forgettable with no unique constructions, making it just a world of parody.
Although the music doesn’t change much besides the gameplay-segments, the actual quality is top-notch. The soundtrack provides lovely folk-tunes done with orchestra, dark bass for some neat jazz in the sewers, harps to enhance the peaceful atmosphere of a library, and, of course, rock for the Guitar Hero-segment. It all works to make this world rich in audio and atmosphere, despite not reflecting the time period you are in. The sound-effects are perfect and even changes between the stages of visual evolution, providing overall pleasant feedback to make you feel powerful. I wonder why not all could be as detailed though, as the abundance of nitpicks does become clear flaws.
Presentation Score: 6.5/10
You know, I do have apps for this now
Like in the last game, there are stars to collect and due to the bigger world and more areas to explore, it is neat to go out to look for them, but due to the general mechanics not being solid, it is not as engaging as it could be. The new card-game is absolutely terrible, as it is basically tug-of-war between your 6 layers vs the opponents. It is only a test of strength and the strongest cards, with minimal strategy.
Extra Score: 2/10
I think that what Evoland 2 forgets is that games, in general, evolve to stay interesting and teach the player mechanics to get them engaged. Evoland and Evoland 2, just try gimmicks and have no idea what to do with them. After the second game, I am happy that the developers moved over to something better. I at least hear Northgard is great, so maybe I should give that a look? As for Evoland 2, it is just slightly better than the first game and that is not saying much.
- Some references are cute
- One demon-character is interesting
- Whenever a puzzle is presented, it is great!
- 3 segments are at least average
- Varied locations
- Fantastic and diverse soundtrack
- Sound-effects change with style
- The idea of visualizing time-travel is neat
- Uneven tone of the plot
- Terribly boring characters
- Poor dialouge
- About 50% of the references are reaching at straws
- All other genres Evoland 2 tackles are terrible
- None of these get developed or becomes interesting
- Hit-detection is off
- Ugly 3D textures
- No attention to details in visuals or audio
- Not worth going after the collectibles
- The card-game is bollocks
- It is a mess of a game