Evoland starts off in a very stark fashion - a soundless, colourless, old school pixel sprite with basic commands. The first few minutes rapidly introduce you to the way the game evolves however, with you finding chests which unlock different aspects of games, moving through 16 bit colour and music, and eventually on up to isometric 3D and full textures.
I love the concept, and in many places I found the game worked wonderfully; later on, you gain the ability to "move through time" by activating crystals, which changes your world from 2D sprites to 3D isometric view, with certain obstacles only passable in one of these modes. It was a very unique use of the mechanic, and combined with some basic puzzle elements provided some interesting times.
I wish I could say more for the rest of the game however. When the game says it will take you through the generations of games, it's not kidding. Of course, what it doesn't necessarily understand is that there's a very good reason some things were left to the depths of time.
2D sprite based gameplay was refined to an art during the days of the GameBoy Colour - I should know, I enjoy going back and playing Zelda games (Oracle of Seasons/Ages for those interested) and the early Evoland gameplay reminded me of this strongly.
Later on however, the game brings in some mechanics which may bring nostalgia for some, but stayed far too long past their welcome for my tastes. One of the villages in the game is shown using a fixed-camera, pre rendered angle. If you're not sure what I'm on about, think about the classic PS1/2 JRPG and you'll have the right idea. This included the several second long loading screen between parts of the town.
Now, I understand that it's amusing and reminiscent of the games of old, but my word it rapidly gets annoying. Especially when you have the classic "talk to everyone in turn" quest that makes you go backwards and forwards through this town. And here we come to the crux of my issue with the game.
If you took this idea, and some GBA Zelda designers, and some Final Fantasy PS1 designers, and the Diablo designers, and put them all in a room together, the end result would be incredible. There's a lot of potential in the ideas. Unfortunately, the designers of this game just don't seem to have the experience in melding the game together; the transitions between different gameplay styles is very jarring, and none of the styles feel quite right - the combat is somewhat iffy, and the puzzles just don't work too well.
It's a real shame, as I said. I can see a lot of work has been put in, but at the end of the day you need to understand why 2D puzzles work the way they do, with mechanics the player has been taught to use. The jarring transitions also made the game feel very transient - can I be bothered doing this spare dungeon when I'm not getting Experience points (unlocked later) from it? Is grinding levels actually helping me, or will the combat change modes entirely once more in a bit, making the effort worthless?
Similarly, the change from Overworld to Dungeons can be irritating - although there are potions you can use in the overworld, these don't appear in the dungeon. Several times I ended up dying in dungeons due to not having enough chances to heal, and having no items to support myself. It makes the game feel very disconnected from itself.
The game is seeded with references throughout; I'm a little young for most of them, but the ones I got were amusing. And don't get me wrong, you'll smile when you see certain artistic styles appear, reminding you of your favorite game of that genre. I do just feel that the entire game could have been condensed down a little, and been a real gem for it.
If you've played on a GameBoy/Playstation and remember your RPG's, it is almost certainly worth a try. If Fire Emblem hadn't already made me dig my GBA out, this would have made me do it, just to go back and play my old favorites. But due to lack of consistancy it's more of a nostalgic prompt than a worthwhile game in itself.