Platforming through the past
Playing Evergate on the heels of Spiritfarer was definitely a good decision — like two sides of the same coin, Spiritfarer dealt with the conclusion of an Earth journey, while Evergate explores the process of beginning life anew. Of course, Evergate is strong enough to stand on its own legs, and in fact touches topics that are often ignored. A puzzle platformer boasting a beautiful storyline over 85 challenging levels, Evergate is a mechanically layered addition to the genre that will certainly attract fans tired of the same rehashed games.
Developed by Stone Lantern Games and published by PQube, Evergate follows the story of Ki as they travel through memories in the library of the afterlife — memories that are not their own — because something is holding them back from reincarnation. Available on PC and Nintendo Switch, the puzzle platformer is reasonably priced at $19.99 and will be sure to offer fun for any age for a few solid hours depending on skill level.
The gameplay in Evergate is simple enough on paper but a little bit trial and error in practice. Ki needs to be reincarnated, but before they can return to Earth, they must traverse across the memories granted to them by way of puzzling platforms. For the player, this means that you’ll need to jump around and use a beam of light called the Soulflame to propel you towards your destination, picking up gems along the way. There’s also a somewhat optional speed-running element to it, so the quicker you do this, the better. The large swathes of the map are laid out in each level, allowing the player to fully strategize each move.
About that Soulflame — you’ll need it to pass through both a crystal and a glowing white plot of land to be able to make the jump work. Luckily, time slows down a bit when you have that beam of light activated, so you’re able to get it juuuuust so while falling towards the ground at a glacial pace. Frustratingly, this means your beam also moves with you, so it’s a constant little game of nudging and adjusting that beam back into place while gravity claims its prize.
The controls in Evergate take some time to get used to; on paper, “B” for jump, “ZR” to initiate the Soulflame, and “Y” to activate the blast all makes sense, but for some reason I really struggled with it, consistently switching “Y” and “ZR” during critical moments. This would cause me to mess up and force me to restart the level from the beginning, no matter how close I was to completion. Luckily, “X” transports Ki to the beginning and resets the stage really quickly, so dying is less of a hassle and more of an annoyance.
When it comes to actually sitting down and playing Evergate on the Switch, I strongly recommend using the dock and playing on the TV instead of handheld mode. I say this because the levels show a lot of square footage, making Ki small in comparison. I had no trouble piecing everything together on my TV, but playing handheld mode gave me a headache trying to focus on teeny tiny Ki and their movements. Handheld mode might be okay in the beginning stages, but as the game progresses, there are more things on the screen, like enemy birds that will swoop into you and kill you in one hit, so it’s a good idea to be able to at least see what you’re doing.
Evergate’s design will instantly remind older gamers of the platformers they loved as a kid as how we saw them in our heads. From the use of color I got Rayman vibes, but googling Rayman again reminds me that it simply looks better in my mind’s eye. The levels themselves wonderfully tie back into the memories Ki is traversing through — using the birds as an example again, Ki will stumble across snippets like kids being chased by birds, really driving home this idea that Ki is doing something important to someone’s psyche. Paired with the cinematic soundtrack that I could easily see gracing big screens, Evergate’s aesthetics and design absolutely elevate the experience, affording more impatient players the will to continue when the going gets tough.
Although I’m a big fan of the glowingly sweet, storyline, 1700s Chinese setting, and appealing aesthetics, I can’t help but feel a little irritated by Evergate’s mechanics. I want to love the Soulflame because the concept provides a unique spin to the genre, but the execution didn’t flow as smoothly as the rest of the game. Coupled with the fact that it was often hard to even see Ki on the screen at times and that the trial and error gameplay cycled between fun to frustrating, Evergate strikes me as a polarizing game that players will either consider to be one of their favorites or a quickly archived experience. I can’t deny that it is a solid title, an objectively good game in a sea of similar platformers — it’s just not going to be everyone’s cup of Earl Grey.
If you are a massive fan of platformers and want something different or if you like puzzle games and haven’t really found that platformer that works for you, I think Evergate might be up your alley. The collecting and speed-running aspects offer something different for all playstyles, which is really appealing for those who want a little more of a challenge. I can’t recommend playing in handheld mode unless you have good eyesight (glasses gang RISE UP), but I daresay a big screen TV is where Evergate belongs anyway, as its gorgeous graphics and legitimately epic soundtrack deserve the square footage and high volume. In the very least, you really can’t go wrong with at least trying Evergate — when we finally get to travel again, I can absolutely see this as being someone’s “airplane game” and, honestly, that kind of thing pays for itself.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PC, Nintendo Switch (reviewed); Publisher: PQube; Developer: Stone Lantern Games; Players: 1; Released: August 18, 2020; MSRP: $19.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a copy of Evergate given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.