Evoland is a very original piece of work. There have been a lot of throwbacks to the old-school style RPGs, but none have taken it quite as far as Evoland. Filled with more callbacks than maybe any other game, Evoland is a well-made referential game that fails to find any kind of originality of its own. The concept of this little downloadable game is actually quite impressive from a technical standpoint. Evoland harkens back to the days of the original 8-bit Zelda and Final Fantasy games of the original Nintendo days, but exists more as an homage or parody of those titles. The game starts with a classic Gameboy look with only two colors and no sound, but the idea of Evoland is right there in the title: evolution. As you play through a game that looks like it was pulled right from a Gameboy cart you suddenly come across treasure chest and when you pick them up, you have color. You pick up the next one and now you have sound. Evoland is a game that actually evolves as you play, finding upgrades to the game itself in treasure chests along the way. What starts as a flat Gameboy style games eventually turns into a 3D 64-bit RPG by the end.
Evoland was a game clearly made by fans for fans of classic RPGs. The idea of evolving a game as you play is actually quite clever and really the best thing Evoland has going for it, because unfortunately the constant references and repetitive combat wear thin very quickly. Through the span of the game’s run time you will encounter multiple styles of play but you will mostly find yourself playing this like a top-down Zelda game or through active time battles a la Final Fantasy, and it basically just boils down to what type of area you are in. The real appeal to this game is the referential humor, which is all actually very clever. There are constant references to Final Fantasy such as the characters names being parodies of Final Fantasy VII characters and there are enemies that look like they were ripped right out of Zelda. One of my favorite moments of the game is when you pick up the treasure chest that unlocks the story and a paragraph of text pops up to lay out the plot of the game and afterwards a dialogue box just pops up and says “You’ve unlocked the story. Man that’s deep!” which just struck me as clever. You can expect to see a lot of this type of humor all throughout the game but sadly it will grow old very quickly.
Evoland was an idea that had a lot going for it but the plain and simple truth is that the game is just boring. With everything just being ripped out of multiple other games, Evoland struggles for some originality. For anyone who’s a super fan of old school RPGS and loves some good referential humor then this game is absolutely worth a look but I would just be forewarned that you are in for a rather bland gameplay experience. Even the visuals can be a little lacking. I almost wish this game was just released as a 16-bit handheld game but I admire what Evoland sets out to do--it just fails to stay interesting for its entire run time, but luckily that time isn’t all that long. The graphics are pretty good in the early stages, but as you get more polished graphics with new treasure chests, they start to lose their luster.
Evoland seems like a fun experiment that would have been more exciting to have seen go all the way with its idea of being homage. While I was playing this game I only hoped to see the game get more and more in-depth but sadly hits a limit that fails to be anything worth bragging about. Evoland is by no means a bad game but really just feels middling once you really get into it. This game could serve as a good stepping stone to something great but really only feels like a stepping stone that can only be recommended to fans of a good homage. Evoland can be found on GOG.com for $9.99.