Evoland has quite the history – which is ironic considering the game itself concerns itself with the history of video games.
The first Evoland started out as an entry into Ludum Dare, an online game jam, back in 2012. The theme of the jam was ‘Evolution’, and Nicolas Cannasse came up with the idea of video game evolution – and so Evoland was born. With just 48 hours to design and create a game, Cannasse’s Evoland Classic (as it’s now known) was chosen as the winning game of that year’s Ludum Dare.
From that short experience created in just two days (which you can play for free in your browser), a more fleshed-out version of the game appeared on Steam in 2013 from Cannasse’s studio, Shiro Games. Starting out with no equipment or abilities other than being able to move right – and presented in blocky black and white – Evoland directs you through the evolution of video games over the last 30 years. Every time you come across a treasure chest, your game will evolve slightly. First you’ll be able to move in four directions, then you’ll unlock screen scrolling, and soon after you’re unlocking things such as 16-colour presentation, 256-colour presentation, a weapon, NPCs, and every other ingredient you can think of to create a modern adventure RPG.
Evoland was followed in 2015 with the bigger-in-every-way Evoland 2, both of which have only ever been available on PC – until now, with the launch of Evoland Legendary Edition. It’s simply a bundle of both games, but if you’ve never played either of these wonderful titles before, Evoland Legendary Edition is a must for any fan of classic adventure RPGs.
The run time of Evoland clocks in at around two and a half hours. It’s very short, and most players will easily run through it in one sitting. But its unique presentation, cycling through different ages of video game history, is well worth experiencing. Evoland evolves from looking like a Game Boy game to a modern-day 3D game pretty quickly, but the second part of the adventure involves flipping between 2D and 3D presentation in order to solve puzzles. It’s this clever use of mechanics that really makes Evoland hard to put down.
Its real draw, though, will be to fans of The Legend of Zelda franchise. Evoland proudly wears its inspirations on its sleeve, and alongside a Diablo-style level and Final Fantasy-style turn-based battles, its primary inspiration is Zelda. The protagonist, dressed in a familiar green tabard and pointed hat is even called “Clink”. But rather than be a cheap rip-off, Evoland cleverly uses well-known tropes from The Legend of Zelda and other games of its type to tell the story of video games through time. If you’ve played any of the games it apes, it’s sure to raise a chuckle.
Evoland 2, while still playing on some of the foundations laid by the first Evoland, is an altogether grander experience that’s more concerned with carving out its own identity as an adventure RPG in its own right. It’s less of a history lesson, more a fully-fledged adventure that uses three different game styles to tell its story.
Rather than lead us through game development in a cohesive timeline, the story of Evoland 2 deals with time travel between “the past”, “the present”, and “the future”. The present in Evoland 2 looks like a SNES-era title, with detailed pixelated textures and true colours. The past resembles the NES era, and the future uses modern 3D graphics. As the game progresses, you’ll pass through each of these eras, visiting the same areas of the game represented in all three art styles.
Evoland 2 also mixes things up by throwing some other game genres in along the way. There’s a bullet hell scrolling shooter level, for instance, where you’re in control of a flying craft trying to take down enemies. There’s also a boss fight presented as a Street Fighter-style fighting game, and numerous sections that turn the game into a Metroidvania-esque side-scrolling platformer. Each genre twist has been expertly implemented and keeps Evoland 2‘s gameplay varied and interesting.
With around a 20-hour run time, Evoland 2 is clearly the star of Evoland Legendary Edition. It still proudly shows its inspirations, but it is a complete – and excellent – adventure game in its own right. It has a fully-developed narrative, a band of unique characters (no “Clink” in sight!) and a thoughtfully-designed world that’s a joy to explore. Evoland 2‘s highlights come in the form of its towns, populated with interesting NPCs, all of whom have something to say that will add to the game’s deep world-building.
Evoland is a fun little experience that puts classic adventure RPGs like the Legend of Zelda franchise under a satirical microscope. But Evoland 2 feels like the culmination of everything Shiro Games learned in studying the genre so closely. There’s a hint of parody, sure, but Evoland 2 is an excellent modern twist on the games we loved so much in the 90s.
As a package, then, Evoland Legendary Edition makes for excellent value. The Evoland games are both brilliant for their own reasons, and if you’re a fan of adventure RPGs, Evoland Legendary Edition is simply a must for your collection.