Evan's Remains

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Platformer
Publisher: Whitethorn Digitial
Developer: Matías Schmied
Release Date: June 11, 2020


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PC Review - 'Evan's Remains'

by Cody Medellin on Nov. 24, 2020 @ 1:00 a.m. PST

Evan's Remains combines logic-based platforming with narrative-driven visual novel elements; follow the journey of Dysis in her attempt to find Evan, a genius who has suddenly gone missing.

Narrative-heavy games face a constant issue: pacing. Lean too heavily on cut scenes, and people will wonder if they bought a visual novel or if the endeavor should have been better realized as a movie, especially if the storyline is weak. Lean too much into the gameplay, and you'll hope that the story doesn't become window dressing instead of the title's focus. The balance is tricky, and while there are a number of games that can pull it off, there are others that fall short. Evan's Remains doesn't squarely fall into either category, as it can both please and disappoint.

The game starts with a letter from Evan Goldstein, a man who was labeled a prodigy by the near-monolithic company, Up-Bring. The letter comes as a shock to the company, since Evan had disappeared years ago, and he has mapped out a request to find him on a deserted island. The letter also specifies that a woman named Dysis must be the one to make the journey and retrieve him. Thus begins Dysis' journey to find Evan and uncover why she was the requested for the job.

Evan's Remains can be thought of as being split into two distinct parts that don't drastically change in their presentation. The first is akin to a visual novel, minus the ability to alter the direction of the story via dialogue choices. The scenes play out with larger character portraits for the bottom half of the screen, usually stopping around the top of the shoulders, while the top half contains the dialogue written out in speech bubbles (no voice acting). This method gives a better view of each character's facial expressions, and while it seems like you would miss the body language in each scene, the game instantly switches to the main screen to show the full characters pacing around, folding their arms, or displaying surprise. Even with so many illustrations per emotion, this method does a decent job of conveying the mood.

With that said, your mileage will vary when it comes to the actual story. You'll meet a small cast of characters ranging from present to downright unlikeable. There are a few twists in the tale, but the big twist occurs shortly before the game's midway point. It's an unexpected move, but from there, it becomes a little predictable, and the main players only receive enough characterization to make you care about how the tale ends. The narrative might not resonate too much when the end credits roll.

The second half of the game is all about puzzle platforming. The goal of each puzzle is to make it over the tall green wall that blocks your path. Each puzzle is only one screen wide, but some have a little wiggle room when it comes to vertical space. All of them have you jumping on switches to make platforms appear or disappear, and jumping on the unmarked platforms will make them disappear when you jump away. It doesn't take long before the game adds more switch types into the mix, such as one that lets you warp from one spot to another or one that lets you jump higher. As in any good puzzle-platformer, things get more devious as you progress in the game, but without any timers or enemies to kill, it isn't as frantic since you have plenty of time to think of a solution and no way to suddenly die. It also helps that the game saves at the conclusion of each puzzle, so taking a break doesn't mean having to repeat sections.

For those who aren't into puzzle-platforming or who find the stages to be too difficult, Evan's Remains provides an option to skip the entire puzzle, so you can either go to the next one or end up in another cut scene. The good news is that doing so has no effect on the overall narrative, so people who want to reach the next story beat won't miss anything versus those who are willing to figure out the levels before moving forward. While the latter group might find that to be disappointing, they'll also be let down by the fact that the game is only about 28 puzzles long. Two of those levels are bonuses once you finish the game. More disappointment creeps in when you realize that a few of the levels are repeats that fit the narrative well enough, since they're supposed to be representative of words. For a game that can be completed in roughly three hours, the number of puzzles feels outnumbered by cut scenes, especially since you'll go through small sets of levels at a time before you're deluged with scenes.

As far as game presentation goes, it is beautiful all around. Graphically, the pixel art style might be more stylized and resemble a super-deformed style due to the characters' slightly larger heads, but the rest of the character models are done well. The animations are nice and fluid, even with the most minute movements. Since the characters aren't so tall, the environment must create something visually appealing, and it works fine in that regard. From the detailed backgrounds of the fallen city to the monoliths to the constant reflections in the water, the title looks rather picturesque. As expected, the cut scenes also show off quite a bit of detail on the talking heads, but there are times when the perspective makes you think that a good chunk of the characters have thin bodies and long necks. The music carries the audio, since there are no voices in the game, and the music conveys the correct mood for the situation. The score features a sci-fi theme, but it's all calm and relaxing material that keeps the puzzle-platforming as a low-stress affair.

Evan's Remains is fine — at least initially. The mix of visual novel-like cut scenes and platform puzzling is a good combo, and those who aren't too keen on the platforming part can take solace in the fact that they can skip those portions without penalty. However, the predictable nature of the tale lessens the story's impact, and the small number of puzzles doesn't provide much for action-oriented players to chew on. It is a short experience that seems appropriately priced ($7) for what you're getting, but this title won't stick with you after the credits roll.

Score: 6.5/10

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