Evan's Remains review
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Evan's Remains review

Our Review by Campbell Bird on December 14th, 2021
Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: MECHANICS OF MEANING
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Evan’s Remains is a surprising puzzle platformer in the sense that its puzzles and platforming are intentionally arbitrary.

Developer: Whitethorn Digital

Price: $3.99
Version: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPad Pro

Graphics/Sound Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar
User Interface Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar
Replay Value Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar

Overall Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar

I don't usually expect much in terms of narrative when playing a puzzle platformer. I tend to be more curious about whether the traversal controls feel tuned well for the challenges thrown players' way and if the level design features mechanics and progressions that are fresh. Evan's Remains definitely feels fine for the kind of puzzling it offers up, but it becomes apparent rather quickly that its gameplay and puzzles are somewhat arbitrary. Though fun in their own right, Evan's Remains is much more a vehicle for a twisting, introspective story than it is anything else.

Island investigation

In Evan's Remains, you play as a woman named Dysis who is looking for a runaway genius and cultural icon named Evan. Your search leads you to a remote island that isn't on any maps, and it's clear that this landform is hiding more than just its location. Despite being largely deserted, huge structures jut out of the ground here, and each one contains a series of ephemeral platforms that you must manipulate in order to navigate through them.

As you run Dysis through these structures, you find yourself on a journey that reveals a bit more about who Evan is and why he might retreat to this hidden island, but that's only where the story really starts. Making your way through Evan's Remains is full of twists and turns and I found myself on the hook and racing to the end after I hit the first one.

Perfunctory platforming

The kind of strange thing about Evan's Remains is that its platforming doesn't seem to matter. The challenges are obviously there, but they don't follow a specific difficulty curve like you might expect of a typical platformer. For any puzzles you can't figure out or don't feel like doing, you can also just skip them via the in-game menu.

Perhaps the strangest deemphasis on the game's mechanical structure comes through the story itself. At a few points along the way, Dysis and other characters remark that they don't have to engage with the platforms on these structures to investigate and that they could just walk around them. This is followed by an indication that Dysis chooses to engage with them because she enjoys them, but it's clear at every turn that Evan's Remains doesn't really care about whether you enjoy or engage with its puzzles, which further underscores its focus on storytelling while also indirectly serving the kind of story it ends up telling.

Revealing the truth

If you choose to engage with the puzzles in Evan's Remains, they are well made and never feel like they are getting too tricky for their own good. The on-screen controls for this mobile version are rather large and don't feel quite as responsive as I was expecting, but then again nothing in the game is particularly demanding. Even the toughest puzzles are a matter of logic and procedure rather than anything that asks you to have fast reflexes or move quickly.

As for the story, I don't want to reveal any potential spoilers, but it goes to some fascinating places. I'm not sure the entire ending really sells me on why certain characters make the decisions that they do, but their actions still stirred a lot of philosophical questions up for me that are reinforced by the actions you take in the game as Dysis, and I'm still pondering them as I write this piece. In that sense, Evan's Remains is narratively very successful and easy to recommend.

The bottom line

From the outside, Evan's Remains looks like a nice pixel art platformer focused on puzzles. Although that isn't technically an incorrect thing to say about it, its mechanical aspects are undercut at every turn to give way to a pretty fascinating story that is as unexpected as it is worth experiencing.

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