Evoland is a game about evolution, obviously, but it’s also about time travel, starting off in the primordial ooze of monochrome palettes and rudimentary sound effects before dragging itself out and hurtling rapidly towards the eras of 8bit and 16bit RPGs, and the age of 3D beyond. It’s the player who causes these changes, by simple progression. Unlock any of the chests dotted about Evoland’s world and you could end up with an item or twinkling collectible, certainly, but keep in mind that Mode 7 scaling, pre-rendered backdrops or turn-based battles will at some point fall out.
Evoland is a lovely idea – a potted history of the action-adventure that feels like an exhibit, though the progress it charts does tend to stop at a point roughly ten years ago, and it can’t always sustain its evolutionary theme. The opening hour is startling in its effectiveness – a genre grows up in front of your eyes – but later sections rely on some stretching of the premise. Walk into one dungeon and you’ll find chests that cause fire-spewing enemies or pushable blocks to belatedly appear, complete with ironic commentary: the gimmick has shifted from genuinely charting progress to a kind of fourth-wall breaking self-assembly.
Still, Evoland’s short length means the conceit never tires, and it does provide a rather brilliant excuse for the game beneath being rather unoriginal. Sadly, Evoland’s barebones take on turn-based battles leads to some other unnecessary padding – but this is still a pleasant walk down memory lane.