Many people dream of taking a trip to a remote island. White sand, blue water, and a seat by the waves. It sounds like the perfect getaway. They may not be so eager though if that trip came via an invitation from a person they’ve never met. Such is the case in Evan’s Remains, when the main character is invited to come to a deserted island with a specific task.
The initial plot of Evan’s Remains centers around the search for Evan, a tech prodigy who’s been missing for quite some time. He’s recently contacted his old employer, the Up-Bring Company, after years of no contact with coordinates to his location and the instructions “bring Dysis”. The company then recruits and tasks a woman named Dysis with finding Evan on the island he led them to. Dysis quickly finds that this seemingly simple task unfolds into something she never could have anticipated.
The plot develops quite a bit from there. Characters are introduced and the story takes many turns. Some revelations are well-done, while others are a bit underdeveloped or easy to anticipate. Players might recognize a few names used throughout the game as names from a certain other game series, which could be seen as a nod to those games if not for the fact that these references are used a bit too frequently. Overall, the story might take players awhile afterward to digest. Not because it’s complicated, but due to the game’s poor explanations and plot hints that are sometimes a bit too cryptic. Some plot elements are introduced in the game’s final few story segments, not leaving much time for players to put things together by the time the credits roll, and the game doesn’t do much to help.
The conclusion of the game, in particular, might leave players sour, and that’s immediately exacerbated by the indulgent Kickstarter backer-laden end credits and secret post-credits scene. It is understandable that the developer was required to include these things to fulfill promises made while gathering funding, but they really needed to find a better way to do so when players might be sitting through those credits to see if there is more story closure and are instead met with disappointment. It’s because of this that some may very well come away from this game not happy at all, both from the long credits and the way things play out.
The gameplay in Evan’s Remains is fairly simple: move left to right and complete puzzles. There are multiple regions for you to run through, each with its own look. In-between puzzles you will often encounter story conversations between Dysis and other characters, with longer plot development segments at the end of each area. While solving puzzles, players can opt to skip the current puzzle from an option in the pause menu. A fast-forward option is also available during story conversation segments. This is a welcomed addition to any game, as it gives players options for how they want to play.
The game’s puzzles all consist of the same basic setup. You must step on blocks to get them to pop out a certain way so you can scale a large green pillar and continue on to the right. Jumping off of blocks makes them slide back into the wall, a detail that is crucial in solving these puzzles. Different types of blocks are introduced as the game goes on, making puzzles more complex. These include warp blocks, tiles that change the function of marked tiles, and a block that bounces you up depending on the height you jumped on it from. There is also a reset tile that allows you to revert puzzles back to their starting position if you get stuck.
The difficulty of these puzzles can vary. In general, earlier puzzles are easier but later puzzles aren’t always progressively harder, and actually dip in difficulty a fair amount in a few regions. Should a puzzle prove to be too hard, there is always the option to skip them. However, the puzzles in Evan’s Remains don’t ever become so difficult that a solution can’t be achieved with some trial and error. This is a bit disappointing, as the majority of the game is spent either doing puzzles or reading dialogue. Breezing through puzzles means the game itself can be completed quite quickly as a result, even if none of the puzzles are skipped.
Evan’s Remains features some great pixel art. Every region has a distinct foreground and background, setting each area apart from each other. During conversations, the character portraits are also portrayed in pixel art, with different character art depending on what is being talked about. This is reminiscent of the style of visual novels and older video games.
All of the game’s regions feature their own music track. Each song shares the same chiptune sound. Lots of synthesizer sounds mixed with piano are common. This style of music fits with the retro-futuristic setting of the island in general. At the same time, having all of the music in the game share the same style makes much of the game’s dynamic settings seem a bit more connected than they should be. Stepping into a new region would have been even more powerful if the music style changed as well, strengthening the impression that players are in a vastly different region than the last, something the game’s backgrounds convey so well. A big exception to the unifying chiptune musical theme is the game’s title screen, which features a sooting guitar song. This evokes a calm atmosphere that fits the seaside-themed title screen perfectly.
There is much to like about Evan’s Remains. The puzzles are tricky, but never inaccessible. The plot has twists and turns to keep players interested. The art and music are both great quality. However, some may come away from this experience wondering what could have been if the game had been developed a bit more thoroughly. There are flashes of greatness throughout this game in its puzzles and story, but these elements are never given the depth necessary to be fully great, nor the time to develop properly. What results is a game that falls short of its potential.
Final Rating: 7 out of 10.