The original Evoland was a heartfelt tribute to the RPG. It celebrated the history of the genre and reminisced over series like Zelda and Final Fantasy. While Evoland was a short and sweet love letter to the legacy of the RPG, Evoland 2 is a sprawling RPG that crams in virtually every conceivable genre from shoot-em-ups to match three. Perhaps due to the sheer amount of variety not all of these features are well executed, and there are some irritating glitches, but the obvious love for its inspirations make for an experience that will resonate with RPG fans – albeit one that took time for me to warm to.   

Evoland 2: A Slight Case of Spacetime Continuum Disorder is a patchwork of a game. All of its elements are taken from other titles and none more so than its story. You play as Kuro, a mute amnesiac, who is destined to save the world. He awakens in a small village and meets Fina, who fills the role of the relentlessly perky girl. After the pair set off to discover Kuro’s identity, they encounter an ancient stone which transports them through time to the past. While trying to make their way home they become swept up in a time travelling saga in which the very fate of the world is in peril — naturally. Together they must alter the timeline to prevent an ancient war, rescue Mina’s hometown that doesn’t exist in the future, and prevent time itself from collapsing. Its hard to fault the story for being so overtly cliché, because familiarity is exactly what it’s trying to achieve. It doesn’t attempt to subvert any of theses tropes, but plays them out with self awareness and humour. Its tenacious, and I couldn’t help but find its enthusiasm charming.

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The time warping escapades are distinguished by different graphical styles. The past is shown in basic 8-bit, the present is represented by SNES era pixels and the future is rendered in 3D polygons. All of the time periods play like a Zelda variety hack and slash which forms the core of the game, but Evoland 2 never sticks with one genre for long as a huge part of the experience is the variety of gameplay styles.

This is also where the game hits most of its bum notes. Sometimes it feels as though you’re playing through a series of questionable smart phone apps. Some control poorly, how to play is rarely explained and a few are a straight-up chore. A prime example is the 2D Mortal Kombat style fighter. No button commands are offered and I was just thrown into it. I found the only action I could reliably execute was the standard punch. Button mashing offered some brute forced results, but more often than not my character did nothing. So I spammed my little punch just as I did in the first two rounds of Mortal Kombat as a kid. In the polygonal era, there’s a 2D platforming section that controls terribly. There’s a slight delay in jumping that feels sticky, like maybe someone spilled Sprite on the dungeon floor, and the bouncy mushrooms used to reach higher platforms seemed to increase jump height completely at random despite my timing being consistent. The 3D sections generally fare worse than the pixelated adventures, as the SNES mode platforming controls fine. There’s a Galaga style shooter that throws out a nasty difficulty spike and outstays its welcome, and a brain training quiz ripped from an IQ test. It’s quantity over quality, and it stays that way till later in the game.

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The lack of clarity in some of these sections is also seen in the core game, but in this case it’s intentional. Evoland 2 doesn’t tell you what to do or where to go and I found it frustrating at first.  Your party members rarely drop hints, preferring to state their cluelessness about what to do next before merging with your body. I had to revisit towns many times, speaking to every NPC I could find hoping one would enlighten me on how to get the necessary trinket or find the next location to get things moving again. There’s no star-marked locations on a map, no objective menu where everything is conveniently listed. I felt my time was being wasted by its vagueness, but my frustration kind of concerned me. I realized I’d become incapable of figuring things out for myself or maybe I was just unwilling to. The excessive signposting in modern games had led me to resent the lack of direction. RPG’s often have dense, imposing systems for levelling and equipment then take you on a guided tour where you follow the markers to win. After fighting against it, I decided to stop treating the game like a race. I suppressed my need to be guided and started to explore, and the game changed for me from that point. I felt like I was truly discovering, and I had time for it. When I figured out how to progress, it was because I finally got it, not because I’d been shown. It reminded me of looking for my lost party members in the World of Ruin, of when I used to talk to every character in a town because I wanted to. Once I’d changed my expectations and took the game for what it is, I opened the door to those memories. This is what Evoland 2 wants you to feel and I began to embrace it.

When you arrive at the showdown with the evil mage, the battle is fought with the rhythm mechanics of Dance Dance Revolution. It was awesome.

And it didn’t hurt that the second half of the game just gets better. Where the mini games from the earlier sections sometimes felt like unwelcome busy work, in the later stages they connect with the progression of the story. I was consistently surprised and delighted by the quality and variety. The final stages involve scouring the world to find five fragments of an ancient artifact. It stops flirting with Chrono Trigger and goes all the way, requiring frequent swaps between time periods to alter events. Each of these new areas is packed with insanely varied gameplay and some extremely rewarding puzzles. Among the best was a surreal 3D puzzle-platforming section based on shifting perspectives, which draws inspiration from a classic time manipulating indie. It was unexpected and brilliantly executed. When forging towards an ancient empire to confront one of the game’s key villains, combat switched to turn based strategy, with each of your character’s abilities forming a well balanced party. When you arrive at the showdown with the evil mage, the battle is fought with the rhythm mechanics of Dance Dance Revolution. It was awesome. Indeed all of the many boss battles are equally unique and extremely satisfying. To say any more will take away one of the joys of Evoland 2 – discovering what this bonkers game serves up next.

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There were some technical issues that hampered my experience. It’s worth noting that virtually every time I logged on updates were happening, so the developers are working on these issues. Regardless, they were part of my experience. Most obvious and irritating was audio glitch that caused the music to sort of fart, emitting a grating buzz. Sometimes it would happen several times in quick succession and it was jarring every time. It’s a shame because the soundtrack is truly lovely. While it is heavily influenced by other soundtracks – in one case surely bordering on copyright infringement – the tunes are catchy and melodic. The game crashed so many times I lost count. Mostly it happened during boss battles – the game would freeze when a lot was going on visually, and I had to forcibly close it. But there were other, weirder glitches that forced a restart. There’s a mine cart section where I had to manipulate the rails to reach an exit, and after flipping an incorrect lever I became stuck, bouncing back and forth between the tracks infinitely. One dungeon used classic games like Pong and Space Invaders as a method of unlocking doors. After completing Pacman and exiting the screen his infamous ‘yuk-yuks’ continued, echoing hauntingly through the dungeon until the game crashed. Each party member has a charged attack to overcome various obstacles and the meter would sometimes charge up through simply tapping the buttons during combat. Once it stayed charged and my only option was to quit the game. There’s no problem with my controller by the way, I’ve checked.

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While everything it does is borrowed, there are so many elements packed into Evoland 2 that it becomes something unique. After a lacklustre start with some mediocre mini games, it comes together in a way that led me to enjoy it more than I thought possible. When its many tangents work, they work well. Evoland 2’s charisma and affinity for classic games eventually achieved its goal – it made me feel nostalgic. It brought back childhood memories of discovering RPGs for the first time, and there are moments that it becomes everything it pays tribute to. Now that my cynicism over its vagueness is in perspective, I’m considering replaying Evoland 2. I want to fully appreciate the joy of being the sword-wielding hero in a world with no markers.

About The Author

As an Australian, Simon enjoys paying slightly more for games, and occasionally isn't allowed to have the really naughty ones. When he isn't writing about video games, he studies journalism so he can actually one day be good at it. He also experienced an existential crisis after writing in the third person.

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