I tend to go into my reviews blind (or as unspoiled as possible) so I had something entirely different in mind when I started playing Evan’s Remains. I thought I was going to be playing an island exploration game, running around digging up clues and trying to find my friend, Evan, but instead I got to run along a beach on an “uninhabited” island solving these crazy jumping platform puzzles and engaging in a seemingly endless story/conversation that was delivered one…line…at…a…time…zzzzz……
Sorry, I drifted off for a moment. For me Evan’s Remains is a love-hate type of game. I love platformers and puzzles but I hate pixel art; although in this case I did come to actually appreciate the style. It didn’t detract from the gameplay and I especially enjoyed those reflections in the water. I loved the engaging storyline but I hated the one-sentence at a time delivery that was like trying to shake the last drop of ketchup from an empty bottle. Plus, the cool parts of the narrative were interlaced with all this weird interpersonal drama and inner monologuing.
There are two sides to Evan’s Remains; the endless dialogue and the puzzles, and I found the latter quite entertaining with a nice progression of difficulty and some truly challenging designs. The puzzles play out in a 2D side view with lots of ledges, some that toggle other ledges, some that teleport to other ledges, some than springboard, some that are always there, some that move along a path, and others that reset the whole puzzle. Once you land on a platform it will vanish as soon as you jump off which factors into this whole binary on/off pattern of setting up the ledges in just the right way to navigate the design and make it over the tall green wall and continue to the next puzzle or bit of the story. Things start off slowly but the progression of difficulty is continually evolving as new aspects of gameplay and types of puzzle pieces keeping getting added to the mix.
These types of games are only as good as their controls and Evan’s Remains has some great gamepad support with smooth and accurate analog movement. Very seldom did I mess up a puzzle by missing a jump or a landing, and even when some solutions do involve a bit of trial and error it only takes a moment to reset the puzzle and try again. Some solutions are obvious at first but later on you will feel like a genius solving some of the more complex puzzles in the game.
One interesting element to Evan’s Remains is that you can skip anything. Bored with the story? Skip it. Stuck on a puzzle and want to get back to the story? Skip it. The game truly allows you to experience it however you see fit. You could conceivably skip every puzzle in the game and treat this as a book if you wanted. If you consume all the content the game will last around 3-4 hours depending on how good you are at the puzzle parts.
The presentation is awesome with what I must confess to be fantastic pixel-art even if my $1000 RTX video card has nothing to do with those mirror-like reflections on the water. The character portrait art is equally as stunning and there are all sorts of nice effects like lighting and subtle animations. It really took me back to my Turbo Grafx-16 and SEGA Genesis days. The music is fantastic and available as a standalone soundtrack for only a dollar.
Evan’s Remains can be whatever you want it to be. Looking for some fun pass-the-time puzzles and don’t want to play Peggle* for the 30th time. Give this a shot. Want to experience a cool and often complex storyline with all sorts of twisty narrative branches – you got it. For only $7 you can have both with Evan’s Remains; and despite the drawn out story delivery, one of the more soothing pastimes you can play this summer.
* Yes, I found myself playing a 13-year old puzzle game the other day while clearing space on my Xbox, which is why I made the reference.