Video games are great, because they aren’t bound to any one way to tell a story. Hell, some don’t even have stories, and are purely mechanical. Others are extremely narrative heavy with very little gameplay. When a game perfectly weaves a story and gameplay together, video games show their strength as the unique storytelling medium they are. Other times, the story exists, but it does no service to the gameplay. But sometimes, the story manages to detract from an otherwise solid game. I absolutely hate Evan’s Remains’ story.
It’s a shame. Because, oh boy, did Evan’s Remains hit just right. It’s a gorgeous pixel art puzzle platformer that does platforming puzzles in a neat way. The goal is to always get over the high obstacle on the right side of the puzzle. To do that, you usually have to navigate a series of platforms. But it’s not as easy as jumping, nor is it really about timing and fast reflexes— even though there is a bit of timing involved.
Puzzles are set up in extremely clever ways. They’re tough, but not so tough that I was stuck for long. They’re not too difficult, but just hard enough to make me feel smart when I figure it out. Of course, as with any puzzle game, your mileage may vary—you might find these particular puzzles more challenging than other puzzle games. But really, a lot of the obstacles in Evan’s Remains can be figured through trial and error.
While the puzzles don’t always get harder as you progress, there are more mechanics introduced as you go. There’s nothing that teaches you how to use each of the new platforms you come across, but each is intuitive and easy to figure out.
Evan’s Remains is all about platforms. Some platforms teleport, others absorb energy from a drop and propel you upwards based on how far down you land. Many platforms disappear after you jump off of them, and you have to then use other switch platforms to extend and retract them in the proper configuration.
The pixel art is gorgeous, and the music is serene and beautiful. Almost everything about Evan’s Remains’ presentation is top notch–except for, of course, the story.
The story is centered around the mystery of the island, who Evan is, and what the connections are between everything. You’re on an island, you’re not sure what exactly the nature of it is, but there are fables of its fantastical properties. You meet a man who is trying to decipher several monuments in an effort to save his terminally ill sister. It’s a compelling mystery, and it seems as though its going to be another extremely poignant pixel art indie game. But then it just had to try and be clever. And in that attempt at clever, it really goes off the rails.
First of all, once everything is revealed, the story is just a convoluted hot mess. I won’t go into specific spoilers—it would take too many words to try to explain the hot garbage anyways—but it boils down to the machnicanations of a super intelligent sociopath. Because, you know, that’s what we need more of in the world. The whole game turns out to be a lie. And not only is it a lie, but it’s a cruel one involving paid actors. It layers conceit upon conceit until everything is meaningless. I hated the story so much, it ended up marring the entire experience for me.
It’s really too bad, because Evan’s Remains has a ton going for it. I recommend it for the gameplay, but I hated the story. Still, if you want a solid, and gorgeous pixel-art puzzle platformer, Evan’s Remains is a good one.
Evan’s Remains is available now on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch.
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