App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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The promise of a game moving effortlessly between genres is something we’d all like to see more of. It’s an easy thought to have, after all. If two great—but different—games can be so compelling, imagine what they would be like if they could be combined into a seamless experience that gives you the best of both worlds? On its face, that’s what Evoland 2 is delivering. The whole thing is a pastiche of classic gaming conventions and genre tropes that’s all wrapped up into one package. The only problem is that Evoland 2 isn’t well paced and struggles to replicate what’s great about all of the material it's referencing.
Journey across eras
Evoland 2 is probably best described as a role-playing adventure game. The majority of its gameplay resembles something like a mix between a Zelda and Final Fantasy game, but it also pays homage to a ton of other games throughout the experience. This is because Evoland 2 isn’t just a typical video game: It’s decidedly a video game about video games.
Although the main action of Evoland 2 follows the adventure of Kuro in his quest to travel through time and prevent various disasters, the game is also about putting players into a variety of different gameplay scenarios that mimic those of other classic games and genres. This means there are moments where the game looks like a Game Boy game or you’ll be playing and endless runner sequence. You even fight characters in the style of Street Fighter, and there’s a whole dungeon that uses combat straight from Bomberman.
As neat as all of this genre-blending sounds, it takes quite a while for any of it to kick in. Aside from the game’s tutorial section at the beginning, there are large sections of the start of Evoland 2 that present basic Zelda gameplay and very little else. There’s the neat trick of changing the game’s aesthetics when traveling between different eras and an occasional reference made, but other than that, the first few hours of the game can feel like a slog while you’re waiting for things to really change.
On top of this, Evoland 2’s puzzle design while in its primary Zelda-like mode can be pretty obtuse. This isn’t so bad at the beginning of the game, but as the game opens up more and more, things start feeling more and more unclear and directionless, which can result in a lot of time wasted wandering around, which is not a particularly fun thing to do in this game.
The Family Guy problem
There are sections deeper into Evoland 2 where you start playing all sorts of different game styles all the time, which is neat, but it only really goes so far. This is primarily because Evoland 2 doesn’t really feel like its paying tribute to any of the things its referencing. It’s just making references for the sake of making them and the moving on.
Sometimes, when these things are short-lived, they can be really neat gimmicks that feel like fun diversions from the base game. The boss fight that turns into a fighting game, for example, stands out as a fun reference that doesn’t overstay its welcome. For every one of these sequences though, there are things like Dr. Giro’s Lab, which attempts to pay homage to Chrono Trigger by filling it with a bunch of bad random encounters and then making jokes about how bad they are (Pro tip to all game devs out there: Making fun of how something isn't fun doesn't magically make it fun. It just makes things more aggravating).
The bottom line
There are moments where Evoland 2’s game-referencing antics feel really cool, but these moments are few and far between. Otherwise, it presents a poorly paced adventure that—though narratively interesting—isn’t exactly fun to play. For the most part, Evoland 2 is a passing curiosity that mostly just reminds you of all the other, better games you could be playing instead of it.