Updated: Aug 21, 2020
Ori + Super Meat Boy + Puzzles = True
Evergate dropped onto the Eshop, after the Nintendo Indie Showcase on Aug 18th 2020, amongst a host of other fantastic indietitles - such as Spiritfarer and Takeshi & Hiroshi. Many seemed to agree that Spiritfarer was the breakout-star of the show but today we`re gonna take a look at Evergate - a title that deserves it´s own place in the spotlight. Evergate is a challenging, atmospheric puzzle-platformer that evokes the spirit of Ori and the Blind Forest, both regarding aesthetics and mechanics, all while still managing to be it`s own thing. It`s not a Metroidvania, there is no exploration (although there is a plethora of skills to obtain), instead... each level is a self-contained puzzle. There is also a huge focus on precision-based platforming and finely tuned difficulty. The hook is kind of difficult to describe, but very easy to grasp once you see it in action. Basically, you can shoot out a beam, if this beam passes through a certain object and hit a certain glowing surface, the object will be destroyed and trigger an effect. There are different objects with different effects. Some will launch your character further, some will create a platform beneath you. The ”puzzle” lies within the challenge to figure out in which order and from which angle you shall destroy the objects. You can actually play the game as an ordinary platformer and just head for the exit immediatly - but that actually be to skip the main point of the game. In order to truly finish a level, you need to break all of the objects and pick up all collectables. This will grant you skillpoints, that can be used to unlock a large variety of game-altering abilities, such as new moves. It´s also the way to play, if you truly want to experience the superb level designs.
By penetrating the yellow crystals with the beam - while touching the glowing surface with the beam, you can destroy the crystal and trigger a jump - allowing you to cross the chasm.
It might sound confusing (even a bit stale) on paper, but rest assure - the developers have done an absolutely amazing job of pushing this mechanic to it`s limit. The gameplay is absolutely fantastic. The controls are tight and the challenge is ever evolving. New objects and new triggers are introduced at a generous pace, which manages to keep things fresh. In the third area of the game, for an example, you are suddently confronted with flying enemies, which completely changes the way you have you approach each level. The different abilities even allow for different playstyles. One could go for the reduced falling speed, and float over difficult gaps, or one could go for 30% higher jump, allowing you to skip certain parts completely. The variety is astounding. The audiovisual design is lovingly crafted with smooth animations, vivid colors and mesmerizing particle effects. It`s art direction might be a little bit TOO derivative of other games, such as he aforementioned Ori, which leads to a sense of ”Generic beautiful indiegame #37”. It`s all very competent, and the artists clearly cared for there work, but it also lacks a strong sense of distinct, personality. The same can be said for the sound designs. It`s all very atmospheric and suggestive, but you`ll probably will forget about the music the instant you turn off the game. All in all though, the presentation definitely add more to the experience than take away from it, and the vague little storyline that is presented between (and behind) the levels is both intriguing and touching.
The levels are lush, colorful and all around pleasant to behold.
On the less positive side - the gameplay withing each level can sometimes become a tad bit repetetive. There is a lot of trial and error in the process of figuring each level out, and for each error you have to repeat the whole level again. Even when you´ve figured it out, you´ll probably are going to have to repeat it some more, due to very difficult platforming sections. This is however more the "fault" of the genre, rather than the game itself. There is also a time-attack challenge tied to each level, but this isn´t particularly well implemented. It`s often impossible to beat the time-attack while aiming for breaking all the objects, meaning that you will have to re-enter each level and finish it in different ways.. On top of that, the time-attacks are clearly not designed around some of the different abilites - which can be used to break level progression. There also don`t seem to be any kind of leaderboard implemented, which feels like a missed opportunity. It`s a cool concept in theory, but it feels tacked on and misplaced. I would have prefered it as a seperate game mode, with skills disabled, and more tightly tested time limits.
The later level becomes increasingly more complex.
Small missteps aside though, Evergate is an absolutely fantastic game that offers something truly unique. The gameplay is original, the controls are satisfying and the difficulty is deeply rewarding. If you like tough platformers that require a bit of strategy and logical thinking, and you appreciate new types of game mechanics, then title is a must buy.