Metroidvania Meets Aeon Flux
Metroidvania is a term gamers know too well. It’s the blend of two of gaming’s most beloved franchises. It’s a simple formula if you step back and take a look at it. Take a huge map and only give the player the means to access small portions of it. As they progress through the game they’ll unlock new abilities to access these otherwise unreachable sections. Double jumps, stronger weapons, keys – it’s all standard fare. Not much has been done throughout the years to evolve the Metroidvania genre, but Evil Genome is trying to change that.
Remember the Time
Evil Genome follows the story of Lachesis, who has been forced to crash land on a mysterious planet. She awakens from the cockpit to find that she’s lost her memory (what a surprise). She’s in a lot of pain and begins to fall out of consciousness, but a small mechanical floating sphere (similar to Destiny’s Ghost) is advising her to dust herself off and search for some help. After crawling out of the wreckage, Lachesis decides to search the land and attempt to piece her memory back together. The only problem is that this land is full of dangerous insects and mutants.
The planet that Lachesis has crashed on seems to have been victim to atomic warfare, which is a good fit for the visual style of Evil Genome. Like all Metroidvania titles, the player will control Lachesis in the foreground and the background will serve as the graphical artist’s canvas to create the game’s world. Whether it be barren deserts or war torn warehouses, the 3D visuals of the background environments are beautifully detailed.
Surprisingly, the backdrops aren’t used primarily for visuals, as a few boss battles utilize this space in some interesting ways. For example, when fighting a giant worm-like beast, the monstrosity would travel to the background environment and burrow in the ground only to resurface in the foreground for a surprise attack. It’s little touches like this that make the world feel 3D even though all of the gameplay is in 2D.
Obviously Lachesis starts off weak due to her amnesia, but she’ll be a total badass before you know it. Evil Genome’s leveling system seems to constantly give the player something new to play around with. This is due to the rewarding (and somewhat intimidating looking) ability tree. Fear not, the tree may look confusing, but once I played around with it, it was very easy to understand.
Every time Lachesis levels up she’ll be given a point to spend on a new ability. At the beginning of the game these new skills usually only cost 1 point, but the abilities do increase in cost towards the mid-point. Of course the classic double jump ability is there, but the spectacular attack abilities are what make Evil Genome shine. At the end of the game I was double jumping while shooting heat-seeking rockets at flying baddies while my clone (another unlockable ability) was laying down heavy fire on the ground troops. Every battle looks glorious.
Enhance the Enhancements
Other than Lachesis’ ability upgrades she will also be able to equip different armor that she’ll come across in the battlefield. These pieces of armor may not look like much, but a quick trip to one of the game’s many save points will give you the option to enhance the armor with components that are dropped by enemies. Health increases, damage bonuses, and even add-ons that decrease enemy speed can be equipped. Lachesis’ sword and gun can also be enhanced using these same components.
All this upgrading is nice but it doesn’t mean jack if Lachesis controls badly. Thankfully, she is very easy to maneuver and controls extremely well. She has two ways to dispatch enemies, one being her blade and the other being her firearm. Basic attacks will take out most enemies but combos can be strung together using both weapons. Again, upgrading abilities will grant new ways to pull off combos, which you must be learned when taking out more powerful enemies. Which brings me to my next point – Evil Genome isn’t an easy game.
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad , Mad, Mad World
Even the most basic enemy in Evil Genome can kill you if you’re not on your game. Like you, they too can string attacks together for a combo, but since there is more of them they can work together to combine combos. Yes, they stack combos, and once you get stuck in one, it can sometimes be impossible to get out of. This makes Lachesis’ dash ability one of the most important things in the game, and something that players must master if they plan on surviving. Most of the combat revolves around not getting surrounded. The dash ability let’s Lachesis get around enemies while dealing out some damage. As long as the enemy can be kept on one side of the screen, you’ll have a good chance of surviving.
Dashing is very important, but when it comes to boss fights it’s only a small part of the game plan. Boss battles are big and they are difficult. Even the slightest mistake can cost Lachesis her life, so make sure have plenty of health packs (also purchasable at save points) on you at all times. If a boss encounter results in Lachesis’ death, it’s not too big of a deal. She’ll be respawned right before the battle, although I had a bug where I had the fight the same boss several times in one part of the game. Hopefully this get’s squashed soon as this boss wasn’t the easiest to dispatch.
World at War
Besides fighting mutants and insects, Lachesis will also run into humans that are still at war. She’ll quickly take sides with a faction, and once she gains their trust she’ll be given side quests to find items out in the battlefield. These side quests will usually take her to areas that are off the beaten path, but these undiscovered locations often contain some good loot and other enhancements. The base that the humans are residing in also contains an arena that hosts fighting tournaments. Winning these tournaments will grant Lachesis some extra XP, and also gives her a chance to hone her fighting skills. The base also plays hosts to several save points and areas to upgrade armor and weapons.
Pumping the Brakes
This all sounds like an amazing game so far, right? Well, while Evil Genome is certainly decent, but it does have it’s share of problems. For starters, the voice acting is god awful! I’m talking worse than the original Resident Evil awful. Lines are delivered at a snail’s pace, and the actors seem to have no feeling at all. I don’t think this was intentional either! Everyone seemed so robotic and boring.
Another issue that may turn off a few players is the constant framerate drops. Evil Genome isn’t the most graphically taxing game, but everything seems to struggle (and I played on two gaming PC’s). I even encountered frame drops after lines of dialogue were given. The game seems to have problems handling even the slightest task. It’s not a constant thing, but it did get really annoying.
Fans of Metroidvania style games should get plenty of enjoyment out of Evil Genome. The armor and weapon enhancements are a welcome addition to the genre and I really hope more games include this feature in the future. The constant upgrades made the campaign fun while never feeling stale. Framerate drops and terrible acting do need to be mentioned though. I have no idea where they got these actors from, but they desperately need some acting lessons.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed) ; Publisher: Crystal Depths Studio ; Developer: Crystal Depths Studio; Players: 1 ; Released: August 7, 2017 ; ESRB: T for Teen ; MSRP: $14.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a Steam review copy of Evil Genome given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.