"There is no subtlety in Evoland 2; its avalanche of verbatim references scream like a petulant child demanding to be acknowledged."
Nostalgia capitalization is very much a trend in the modern gaming sphere; original ideas are increasingly difficult to come by, so it makes sense that some developers look to past successes for inspiration when making their own games. Evoland 2: A Slight Case of Spacetime Continuum Disorder is a game built entirely upon the ones that came before it, taking cues primarily from the Legend of Zelda series and mixing it with a whole host of other genres. There's a difference, however, between making a sly nod to a beloved franchise and overtly plagiarizing someone else's good ideas. There is no subtlety in Evoland 2; its avalanche of verbatim references scream like a petulant child demanding to be acknowledged. It relies on quantity over quality, throwing a barrage of half-baked game modes at the player, all the while quoting "Hyrule this" and "1-Up Mushroom that" in a vain effort to be amusing.
The core of the Evoland 2 experience is a top-down action RPG, chronicling mostly-silent protagonist Kuro's misadventures through time and space (read: different eras of video game history). The game opens in 8-bit monochrome, but it eventually cycles through several other graphical styles representing the NES, SNES, and PlayStation. The visuals are distinctive and the sheer scale of their undertaking from a development standpoint is impressive, especially when one considers that the game world exists in quadruplicate. Its overall design, on the other hand, is creatively bankrupt. Generic forests and dungeons are populated by slimes and skeletons, while many NPCs are wholesale ripoffs of characters like Bioshock Infinite's Elizabeth, Earthbound's Paula, and Secret of Mana's dancing merchant. Worse still, dialogue is almost entirely bereft of interesting content, and there's a ton of it to sift through. Most of what is said does little to develop any character in a meaningful way. Instead, the player is subjected to trite, transparent allusions to popular games. We're talking stuff like "Some kid in green came in and broke all of my pots while shouting 'hyah'! Can you believe it?" and "It looks like this computer was used for something called WoW... whatever that means." Yaaaaaaaaaawn.
One would think that by borrowing from some of gaming's most celebrated franchises, Evoland 2 might have a variety of exciting modes to offer. In theory, this is true, but the game falters somewhere less tangible, less straightforward: the feel is totally off. Perhaps it's because the developer wanted to differentiate Evoland 2 from its sources, or perhaps it's because they simply lack an understanding of what makes those games good. The fact remains that it's vaguely unsatisfying to play. Whether it's in 2D or 3D, Kuro runs too slowly and his sword swings lack impact. Other modes drag on far too long, like the Chrono Trigger-inspired turn-based combat section (which takes place in a lab ripped straight out of that game's 2300 A.D.) and high-flying bullet hell section (which features only a handful of enemy types and bosses that are super-sized versions of them). I could also point to the 2D fighter segment, where Kuro becomes Totally Not Ryu and defeats Totally Not M. Bison, or the logic puzzle segment, where Kuro enters an academy and is suddenly Totally Not Luke from Professor Layton. Should I go on? If your answer was "no," then congratulations! You now understand what it's like to play Evoland 2. Every mode present is more or less ripped from another game, only without the soul, charm, or polish that makes those games stand out in the first place.
While there's certainly more variety in Evoland 2 than in its predecessor, the genres/styles/activities present are too shallow and never shine on their own merits. Frankly, I was terribly exhausted by the game. I'd feel a wave of excitement every time I encountered a new mode, only to have my hopes dashed, either by the simplicity of its mechanics or by the mode long overstaying its welcome. If anything, all the game succeeded in doing was making me want to go back and replay the games it so shamelessly stole from.
Everything in Evoland 2 is done elsewhere, but better. It's a shallow imitation, a hodgepodge of gameplay elements aped from more polished games. Its disparate parts lack cohesion, relying instead on shared knowledge to garner a positive reaction from the player. If you're the type of person who finds referential humor hilarious, you might be considerably more entertained by the game than I was. Evoland 2 wants to be applauded simply for existing, and I refuse to dance to its tune.