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Evoland 2: A Slight Case of Spacetime Continuum Disorder

Platform(s): PC
Genre: RPG/Action
Developer: Shiro Games
Release Date: Aug. 25, 2015


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PC Review - 'Evoland 2: A Slight Case of Spacetime Continuum Disorder'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Aug. 25, 2015 @ 6:00 a.m. PDT

Evoland 2: A Slight Case of Spacetime Continuum Disorder is an RPG adventure that takes players on an epic journey through time, across a variety of classic and contemporary video game styles.

The title Evoland 2: A Slight Case of Space Time Continuum Disorder tells you almost everything you need to know about the game. It's all time travel by a young boy named Kuro. As with all good JRPG protagonists, he wakes up with amnesia and is promptly set on a quest to discover who he is. Along the way, he learns that a young demon boy is harnessing an ancient power to destroy humanity to avenge the destruction of his people. While attempting to stop him, Kuro and his new friend Fina are sent hurling through space and time. Before long, the paradoxes mount and history is changing, and the pair must figure out a way to set things right before time itself is destroyed.

Evoland 2 is a grab bag of various JRPG clichés, but it actually works. The game feels very much like an old-school RPG in a lot of the right ways. You can point to quite a few plot points that pay homage to different games — Chrono Trigger in particular — and they're remixed enough that they do a good job of selling the idea. The story wouldn't do well as a serious plot, but the jokes and lightheartedness help to get around some of the awkward writing. The plot is amusing enough, but when it descends into parody, that actually works against it. Most of the jokes are video game references.  Some are subtle and genuinely amusing, and others are incredibly overt and feel tacked on; the contrast between the two can be jarring.

Evoland 2's main genre is a Zelda-style action-RPG, but it has more in comparison with something like Illusion of Gaia. You control Kuro as you adventure through the various dungeons. You've got a sword slash and … that's about it. Early in the game, you unlock 2-D dungeons, where Kuro can jump and shoot a beam from his sword. Kuro doesn't get much in the way of new upgrades or powers. The dungeons may have different gimmicks, but once you've learned to move and swing your sword, you've pretty much learned all of the basic mechanics.

Rather than getting tools, you get partners. There are three party members who join your party, though occasionally, you recruit a temporary fourth member. All three effectively become charge attacks for Kuro. Fina provides a powerful line-attack that also knocks over objects and activates switches. Menos performs a ground smash that can also destroy objects. Velvet uses an ice gun that can also freeze objects and create paths across ice. These are the primary tools you'll use for dungeon exploration, but tying your tools to your attacks is a little annoying. Every attack has a cooldown to prevent it from being spammed, and the cooldown is global across all characters. That means if you use Menos to attack, you have to wait before you can solve a puzzle, or if you use his attack in the wrong place, then you must wait before using it again. It's a minor issue, but I'd much rather have seen each puzzle-solving tool as its own independent thing instead.

Evoland 2 is mostly set in three different time periods — past, present and future — which are represented by different art styles. The past is 8-bit, present is 16-bit, and future is Dreamcast-style 3-D graphics, but the visual changes aren't just for show. The different eras have different physics as well as different linear time. An object may be bigger in the fully realized 3-D era and a simple one-block sprite in another. More importantly, there are hundreds of years between each era, so the same area becomes drastically different if you go to the past or future. You might encounter descendents of people you've helped or go back in time to twist up the future.

The use of time travel is quite cool, if heavily borrowed from Chrono Trigger. While a good chunk of the game has you doing what the plot demands, the final segment is a semi free-form exploration quest that has you constantly swapping back and forth between the eras to take advantage of the differences. You can go to the future to steal a house key to enter a house in the past, create a paradoxical airship by giving a completed prototype to its inventor, alter history by changing the tide of a war, and a lot of other neat uses of what seems like a simple concept. It's pretty gated, you don't have a ton of opportunity to "trick" the system, but it still feels pretty cool when you do it. One of the best dungeons in the game has you constantly switching between all three eras to take advantage of the changing sprites and differences in time.

The dungeon design really shines. The game has lots of dungeons, and many of them have legitimately fun puzzles that make good use of the tools available to you. Puzzles start out simply, but by the end of the game, there are some surprisingly in-depth ones. Near the end, you trek through some cool, creative dungeons. My favorite takes place in a time anomaly where physics are broken. You have to solve puzzles that involve doing things like cloning the main character to have him stand on multiple switches, swap between 2-D and 3-D environments, and turn cliffs and outcroppings into pillars for you to jump on.

Everything I've described thus far is the default state of Evoland 2. As it swaps between visual styles, it also swaps between gameplay styles. Throughout the course of the game, areas are designed around different game types. Some are similar, like action-heavy action-RPG gameplay vs. puzzle-heavy action-RPG gameplay, but others get way more extreme. You'll solve Professor Layton-style puzzles, engage in turn-based RPG battles, end up in a side-scrolling River City Ransom-style beat-'em-up, battle it out in a Street Fighter II-style fighting game, and so on. You'll encounter a lot more genre shifts toward the end of the game than near the beginning, but there are a lot of them.

Surprisingly, this works in the game's favor. Right about the time the action-RPG gameplay starts to get dull, you're thrown a bone. Only a handful of the boss battles are traditional. The game throws something at you to break things up. Sometimes, it makes sense, such as having to gather an army of soldiers to take on an opposing army in strategy-RPG combat. Other times, it comes out of left field, such as the aforementioned fighting game battle. Regardless, you'll constantly be encountering something new, and the game never falls into a rote pattern, unlike a lot of RPGs.

Many of these gameplay modes are pretty fun. The fighting game isn't any great shakes, but it's an amusingly done Street Fighter II clone, right down to having the Hadoken and Shoryuken available using the traditional button inputs. For me, the highlight was the strategy-RPG section that struck a surprisingly good balance between variety of gameplay and simplicity. I would've enjoyed seeing that gameplay mode fleshed out some more on its own, and I was actually disappointed when it ended, despite it being one of the longest genre shifts in the game. They're more akin to minigames than fully fleshed-out experiences, but they're fun. There's even a surprisingly in-depth collectible card game!

However, Evoland 2's variety can also be a bit of a curse. As with all games of this type, constantly changing between genres can be fun, but it can also lead to frustration. There are boss battles that might be minor roadblocks for players who dislike certain genres. For example, some boss battles are based around Guitar Hero minigames or take place entirely in a shoot-'em-up segment. The game expects at least as much skill in twitch gameplay as it does in traditional RPG action. I wouldn't say any of the challenges are hard enough to punish players if they're not good at a genre, and there are swappable difficulty modes in the event that occurs, but it's very easy to run into a segment you'll stop playing because you don't enjoy it.

Constantly switching between genres also gives little time to polish any one genre. It's a tad frustrating when the core strong idea is left underutilized. The core idea of the Chrono Trigger-style RPG section is fun and has some cute ideas, but it goes on way too long for its own good. The basis for a fun RPG combat system is there, but since it only exists for one section, it's turned into a repetitive joke and promptly forgotten. There are other gameplay modes that could've used some more polish and others that are surprisingly well done. Variety is the spice of life, but there were times I wish the developer could've given more care and attention to a couple of gameplay modes instead of changing around so frequently.

Evoland 2 does a great job with the visuals. The three different art styles are excellent representations of their respective genres. In particular, I was impressed with the 3-D era. It isn't great, but it does an excellent job of capturing the feel of the Dreamcast video game era. It has a lot of direct visual comparisons with games like Evolution or Grandia 2 in design and in the cut scenes. The sprite work in the earlier eras is quite good and evokes the nostalgic SNES feel. The soundtrack is excellent, with a mix of evocative tunes from different genres. There are a few that feel uncannily close to existing songs, such as a haunted forest tune that is about an inch away from being a straight Castlevania song. Generally, the presentation is quite good, especially for an indie game.

Evoland 2: A Slight Case of Spacetime Continuum Disorder is as amusing as its name is long. It's a surprisingly adept blend of various types of nostalgia and does a good job of capturing the feel of SNES-era style RPGs without overstaying its welcome. The humor doesn't always hit, but it's amusing enough to carry the game through its 12-hour running time. Perhaps the only real flaw is that the game swapping so constantly between genres means it can never quite settle into a groove, and certain fun elements go underutilized. Fans of old-school JRPGs should find a lot to like in this loving homage to the classics of the genre.

Score: 8.0/10

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