Nostalgia is a hell of a drug.
Evoland understands the allure of old games and the comfort of retreating back into adventures we successfully completed many years ago.
In fact, this role-playing game counts on you to long for the days of top-down Zelda titles and sprite-based Final Fantasy fare.
Evoland makes a tricky gamble by turning your mind back to old favourites. On one hand, the myriad references are sure to make you grin.
On the other hand, once you really tuck into the game, you're reminded of why the classics are beloved - and you quickly realise Evoland bears few of those charms.Primitive lands
Evoland starts you off as a squat monochrome hero in a top-down adventure game.
In the first (and best) hour of the experience, you unlock treasure chests that upgrade the world with colour, texture, screen scrolling, allies, and finally, 3D environments.
Acclimatising the player to Evoland through these "reveals" is a fun and clever way to present challenges while unfurling an interactive history of the RPG and action RPG genres.
There's even a brief fling with an SNES-style Mode 7 world map.
While the novelty of these reveals never really wears off, playing Evoland itself gets wearying.Staggering hero
The gameplay shifts between action-based combat (think Zelda) and menu-based combat (think Final Fantasy), which is weird, but workable.
The problem is that the fights are basic, repetitive, and, in the case of the menu-based encounters, throw you up against boring enemies and bosses.
It's true Evoland is meant to be a parody of basic and repetitive NES RPGs, but that's not an excuse for tepid gameplay. There are reasons why the original Final Fantasy and Legend of Zelda still hold up today, and Evoland never taps into that magic.
Worse, Evoland was originally a PC game, and the virtual thumbstick engineered for its jump to mobile is very slippery.
This becomes a big issue in dungeons with narrow paths between pools of lava or beds of spikes. Though save points are plentiful early in the game, they curiously become more sparse as you go on.
Death means retreating back to the title screen, which means losing all your progress up to your last save. This is understandably frustrating, especially since even the original Dragon Warrior lets you keep some of your progress when you die without saving.Stay home
Evoland tries very hard to be likeable, and in some ways, it is. It pokes gentle fun at a beloved genre while reminding you of how RPGs have changed (and stayed the same) over the decades.
But it's obviously not possible for a game to survive on parody alone. Every adventurer needs a reason to push forward, and unfortunately, Evoland doesn't offer up a reason that's compelling enough.
It's difficult to control, the battles are uninteresting, and the enemies don't stand out.
Playing Evoland is like keeping company with a hero that dressed up their friends for an epic battle, but forgot to outfit themselves before the showdown. It's a shame such an ambitious idea falls flat.