Evoland II: A Slight Case of Spacetime Continuum Disorder is an action/role-playing game, and before you ask me what game it’s like, I’ll tell you: all of them.
The conceit is that as you travel through time, the game’s style, drawing, and action change around you.
But not only do you move up and down the bit scale as you go, you’ll also change styles of play. One minute you’re playing something that feels like Street Fighter, then you’re in something that looks suspiciously like Mario, then you enter scenes that feel so much like Zelda even the whacking-of-plants-for-rupees trope springs to life. Even classic arcade games make the cut.
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Evoland II is available now from Shiro Games on Windows PCs for $20.
What you’ll like
A charming collection of characters
Evoland II presents you from the start with deep, rich characters who have their own motivations and quests to follow. While some are literally shallow — those 2D graphics sequences! — all are entertaining to interact with, perhaps more so than in some of the games they play homage to. I rarely felt annoyed by my gaming companions, and I’ll tell you that’s not true in plenty of the titles Evoland pulls from.
The smooth transition between game styles
The game’s story is written to smoothly take you from one homage to the next, all as part of the core storyline (which I won’t spoil here). You’ll find yourself hopping from one setting and game style to the next with surprising frequency, but it never feels harsh or jarring, thanks to the story sailing through the transitions.
The dialogue is definitely tongue in cheek, with a small host of winking references to the game itself and the titles it spoofs, providing hints just in case you don’t get which game you’re sending up this time.
The variety of game styles that are included
It would have been simple for Evoland II to just include classic action-RPGs like Zelda in its mashup lineup. But it doesn’t stop there. It grabs pretty much every classic game style it can get its hands on — arcade platformers, courtroom dramas, fighting games, rhythm rockers — and most are well-executed, if miniature.
You’ll switch between turn-based light strategy and puzzles and shooters without stopping. You can almost picture Shiro’s developers cracking their knuckles each morning and saying, “What type of game should we develop today?”
The graphical shifts
While all the games in Evoland II are classically-oriented — mostly from the 16-bit era — the game’s look changes dramatically over the course of your adventures. From flat green-and-black 8-bit contests to beautiful, if simple, 3D renders, the title covers an entire swath of video game history, and it does it with a lovely authentic touch.
Even the action plays out based on the graphics, with tons of space-bar-advancing text in one title scrolling by on screen and others where side-scrolling or 3D action takes control. Nothing sticks around for too long, so if you don’t like one genre or another, just wait a few minutes.
The game’s length
Given the short shifts in game styles (and its indie heritage), it seemed like Evoland II would be over quickly. But it offers a surprisingly amount of depth: It took me more than 20 hours to complete, and while that time felt like it flew by, the title was absolutely satisfying.
The game’s early hours are pretty straightforward — you will take a fairly linear path through the environments presented. But things branch out later, adding to the game’s complexity and the amount of time you’ll spend popping between one style and the next.
What you won’t like
The actual gameplay won’t enthrall you
Evoland II spends its time and attention on the graphical styles it represents, the games it evokes, and the characters and story that entertain you. Where it skimps is on the controls and details of the gameplay.
In some cases, Evoland II is constrained by the historic titles it emulates. In others, it just fails to interject the kind of innovation and intricacy it could or even as much as its “parent” games provided.
In both cases, you’ll be doing a lot of jumping, clicking, and hitting that spacebar. The good side of that is that you’re not being jerked between different control sets every time you shift game styles. The bad side is that the control style isn’t great.
Did you miss that pixel? Too bad
Like all classic RPGs, Evoland II falls into the “you have to do everything if you’re gonna finish anything” trap. Every so often, my delightful progress through this video game potpourri was interrupted when I failed to find the right path, talk to the right person, or explore the right part of the map.
You’re going to spend some time chasing your own tail in Evoland II, but perhaps that’s appropriate, since most of the games it riffs on had similar issues.
Evoland II may not offer the most amazing gameplay of any title you pick up this year, but its charm, writing, and storyline will keep you entertained and playing on through all the genres and graphical styles it represents. It’s a mashup on a grand scale — and a successful one — bringing together many of the elements that make us love all those games individually.
If you’re not into nostalgia for titles from the 16-bit or arcade eras, you should probably avoid this game (and, at at the very least, subtract 15 points from the review score). But if you are … this is definitely the action-RPG for you.
Evoland II: A Slight Case of Spacetime Continuum Disorder is available now for Windows PC from Shiro Games for $20. GamesBeat received a download code from the publisher for this review.