Little Ki – the cover star of Evergate – instantly reminded me of Ori from Blind Forest and Will of the Wisps fame. He’s a spirit too and, if we’re being honest, quite adorable. He discovers a mysterious connection with another soul and via the Evergate (a portal to different worlds), experiences memories believed to be long lost.
These sets of memories take the form of books, and each book contains a different world, each comprising of seven stages to complete. Evergate is a puzzle platformer, and its structure is fairly simple. Within each stage, there are three challenges to complete. Doing so awards essence, which in turn unlocks artifacts. These allow Ki to learn new abilities, such as jumping further and becoming resistant to certain hazards. However, you can only equip one ability at a time meaning you’ll need to choose carefully, depending on what stage you’re playing.
Ki uses his handy Soulflame to get around, which is a powerful tool able to cast a beam of white energy, and can be used in numerous ways. It only works when aimed against the enchanted white areas of the stage (also called “the source”), however it is all about what gets caught in the crossfire. Crystals will catapult Ki to hard to reach areas, hourglasses will transport him great distances, and floating blocks can be zapped into stable platforms.
When you use your Soulflame, you will slow time down to a crawl and have an opportunity to aim before you make your move. If you wish, you can also use precision aim for the most difficult of meaneouvers. It sounds easy, but in practice is much more challenging. Breaking all the crystals in a stage is one of the three challenges that will award you essence. Another is grabbing craftily placed collectibles dotted across each stage.
The third challenge pits you against the clock, with you needing to complete each level within the time limit. If you go for the collectables, you’ll have no hope of beating the time trial on the same attempt. It’s here where the replayability becomes apparent in Evergate; each level is so well-designed that you’ll want to go in for another attempt to earn that extra essence.
Ki will have to avoid all sorts of hazards, from icy shards to high-flying birds of prey. Evergate develops the gameplay with each new world, with the later locations allowing Ki to float between gravity bubbles and fire himself through the air like a firework. It’s loads of fun, and keeps things from getting monotonous.
As you play, you’ll also unlock bonus levels. You’ll need to collect all the essence you can to discover them all. These are essentially more linear challenge levels where the only aim is to reach the goal – there are no other objectives here. Of course, the trade-off is that these stages are more difficult to beat than the others.
What is an extra bonus, is the fact that Evergate is optimised for Xbox Series X|S. I am fortunate enough to own an Xbox Series X, and you can honestly see the difference. When you enter a memory, you phase straight in with no load times at all. It’s a great sensation and feels absolutely seamless.
More generally, the game isn’t the most graphically demanding, but looks incredibly pretty. The brushed watercolour effect of the visuals, combined with the hand-drawn style, helps recreate some truly beautiful worlds from times gone by.
However, as good as the game looks, it is the soundtrack that steals the show. It’s truly magical. There are elements of Game of Thrones as well as several Disney elements all thrown into the mix. It was recorded with a live orchestra, and you can really tell – I just can’t get enough of it; it’s impossible not to love.
Put simply, Evergate is a bargain, even at its regular price of £7.99. It offers over 70 stages to blast through, with a steadily increasing difficulty curve. In terms of challenge, there’s plenty of it. There’s no limit on lives to worry about, but in the later levels you will die. Often. However, for the most part, the game strikes that oh so sought after balance between enjoyment and frustration, ultimately resulting in the “one more go” factor prevailing. Only on occasion will you feel frustration overtake your enjoyment of the game.
Despite some familiar elements on the surface, Evergate on Xbox brings plenty of original ideas to the table. It’s clever, charming and a real joy to play. Stick with it, because there’s a deceptively large adventure on offer here.