Evan’s Remains has a fascinating origin, having being developed by a single aspiring game creator in Argentina who, with the support of friends and family, managed to kickstart a chain of events eventually leading to the worldwide release of the game on all major platforms, including Xbox One. This is a game which demonstrates the power of video games as a storytelling medium, and it manages to achieve this feat without all the superficial Hollywood-grade production values.
The storyline is the main crux of the experience in Evan’s Remains, and from the mysterious beginnings all the way to the jaw-dropping finale, this is a tale which delivers on its promise and then some. The main plot follows the adventure of Dysis as she arrives on a mysterious island in search of the titular Evan character. The mystery surrounding Evan, as well as the people she encounters on this island, all seem unrelated and vague until the plot thickens, unravelling everything piece by piece. The themes explored in the game tend to depict the darker side of human nature, even dabbling into some science fiction madness to deliver a rather harrowing message on existentialism. As Dysis explores the island she encounters numerous ancient monoliths that she must solve in order to make sense of her surroundings, as well as the vague motives behind her mission.
The monoliths are as essential to the game design as they are to the overarching narrative, where each monolith serves as a puzzle platforming segment that players must solve. As Dysis, players essentially run from left to right as they solve each new monolith puzzle one by one, furthering the dialogue and story. The puzzle platforming takes place on a single screen and basically involves navigating an arrangement of platforms in order to jump over a large green column. These platforms vary quite considerably in how they function, but the main platform is a switch which generates additional platforms that disappear as soon as you jump off of them. Puzzle solving generally involves timing these platforms and using the switch to activate these in a certain order.
The game doesn’t really explain things by the way of hints or tutorials at all, and yet the puzzle mechanics somehow make sense. The design gets quite tricky as the journey progresses, with new platforms performing functions such as teleportation, jump boost, and other functions to activate certain platforms and/or move them around. For the most part the puzzles are quite rewarding and satisfying to solve, but some of these can be quite obtusely cryptic. Thankfully, the game allows you to skip as many puzzles as you wish, especially if you’re keen on seeing the gripping story unfold.
The design and progression of the puzzles have a method and meaning to them, as they feed into the narrative with each test carrying a symbolic meaning. They don’t get progressively difficult and instead the difficulty curve is all over the place, with some puzzles even being repeated. This is something even Dysis makes a very self-aware comment about, and all of it makes sense as everything comes together in the story.
The writing in Evan’s Remains takes a surrealist approach, with the dialogue incorporating a sly and dry style of humour. The character development is really strong, with the main cast immediately exuding the kind of charm that makes them captivating within moments. These characters personify the inconsistent good and bad qualities of modern humanity, all while exploring and confronting existential angst. The characters are complex, where nothing is ever as it seems, with the story doing away with the black and white good/evil tropes, and instead opting to present rather grey personalities which the player must ultimately judge for themselves.
The storyline comes together really well with a simple yet memorable visual presentation, all thanks to the vibrant and beautifully animated sprites. The mysterious island serving as the game’s setting often has some interesting backgrounds resembling a surrealist painting on an art canvas. The character designs, while familiar, have a charming manga style about them which looks really cool.
The sound design shines through too, with atmospheric music complementing the surrealist existential motifs of the whole experience, making extensive use of acoustic instruments.
Evan’s Remains on Xbox One is a unique platformer with great puzzle design, and an adventure experience driven by a substantial narrative which successfully delivers on its lofty ambitions. With beautiful sprites, simple but charming artwork, emotional music, and a cast of memorable and well-written characters, this is the kind of video game experience that stays with the player years after the credits have rolled.