Sometimes, all it takes is a name. Upon first look, this title grabbed me immediately: “Evan’s Remains.” Most indie developers are apt to title their games with something obvious or cool, like Mortal Manor or Eternal Radiance, but others intend to provide a sense of ambiguity that makes them tinged with a palpable coat of intrigue. As one fond of such psychological reasoning—of which I may very well be making up myself—there was little reason for me not to want to play it. The goal: to discover where, or what, Evan’s remains may be, with this review of Evan’s Remains for PC.
On a side note, playing through this game for a second time, I began to sense similarities to Rainswept. While likely not related in the slightest, the sense of mystery, character motivations, and the way the enveloping narrative made me feel rings eerily similar. Indeed, Evan’s Remains is one that is very story-driven, containing many cutscenes and dialogue boxes. For those looking for a more “pure” gaming experience, this is not the place. What can be found here is a deeply emotional tale of perplexingly convoluted framing, with puzzle-platforming haphazardly attached.
Story – All That Remains
As stated above, this game’s aim to fame is its narrative, which takes up a considerable amount of its playtime. Cutscenes galore, tons of dialogue, and a twisting story of who’s who and what’s what. If I had to wager it in fractions, I would surmise that the game’s about 70% dialogue to 30% continuous gameplay, which could make the argument that this is borderline visual novel territory. Not to say this is inherently wrong—and I rather like the experimentation—though others could find it misleading.
Of the story, I can say without question that Evan’s Remains‘s story will stick with me for life. The way it frames the intrigue of the isolated setting, the characters, and the ancient technology makes for a very interesting set-up. Slowly relaying relevant information and allowing the plot to develop naturally, it properly paces itself to continue the intrigue without misstep. Following Dysis on her journey, who knows little more than the player, also allows for careful immersion into the events of Clover and his own journey. The game is titled after Evan, and focuses almost exclusively on him, until it doesn’t. Not all is as it seems, and by the end, all that came before hints at something deeper than the surface, offering replay value.
All that said, one development I’ve found myself doubting is the ending, which I will not elaborate on for spoiler reasons. What I will note is that it is very expository. The final few cutscenes do everything that they can to explain every minute detail, which I worry may not be totally necessary. Sometimes I feel that the mystery is more alluring than the explanation, and knowing all that came to be, I feel a little let down from a logical standpoint. In a sense, it provoked more questions than supplied answers, with gargantuan amounts of undeveloped info used to strengthen the end reveal. With something so deeply rooted in fantasy and fictional detail, it’s probably best to continue with ambiguity. It’s okay to not make complete sense, but straying too far from comfortable suspension of disbelief is fairly risky.
The stars of Evan’s Remains are Dysis and Clover, the two characters the player eventually follows throughout the game. Each have their own intentions, and mysteries to solve, and their eventual camaraderie is easy to cheer for, especially in time. While the game will want you to believe they come to form a close bond, I’m not quite convinced of the notion. To be frank, I believe Clover is too serious to… take seriously. His constant silence and empathetically-disguised apathy makes it hard to really gauge his personal thoughts. Dysis is, as Clover makes evident, easy to read, which makes them easier to relate to. Through Clover, it’s more through actions, which he makes clear somewhat early on. Even so, to have him only break the facade of stone-faced determination when plot-convenient feels a little too strategic, less personal. Overall, his development is solid and it works for the situation, but personable? Somewhat harder to justify.
Gameplay – What Gameplay?
Here’s an interesting tidbit: You don’t have to play Evan’s Remains to beat the game. Sounds insane, right? For context, the title provides the option to skip every puzzle available in the pause menu, so one can simply focus on the story at hand (going full visual novel mode). It is not mandatory in the slightest, and assuming you’ve played puzzle games before, the challenges are nowhere near the difficulty threshold that makes the option desirable. Still, to have the option there is appreciable, especially for those not well-versed in puzzles. Some players care more for story than gameplay, so to structure the game around that makes for a choose-your-own-adventure flair.
But from my writing above, what gameplay is featured here is fairly limited. Almost a cross between Super Mario Bros. and Portal—simplified tremendously—that 30% involves a lot of disappearing and re-appearing platforms, teleporters, and trickery. Jumping off certain platforms make them disappear, and hitting a switch makes them re-appear. Manipulating the pattern of conveniently misshapen platforms is the name of the game, requiring the player to think ahead. To reiterate, the puzzles aren’t terribly difficult, and some simply come down to trial and error. Only one gave me a little difficulty, but it didn’t take more than 10 minutes to solve (the Steam build has an achievement for being stuck on a puzzle for 15 minutes). It seems clear that the priority was the story, as that seemed to have a lot more thought behind it.
For gameplay purists, Evan’s Remains will be a disappointing venture. The game follows a template of “puzzle → cutscene → puzzle → puzzle → cutscene” with very little variety between. While getting progressively more tricky, the puzzles offer little in mental stimulation that other puzzle games would. Calling it simplistic would be an understatement, though it’d probably be more appropriate to say it’s not the priority. Added for some physical interaction with the setting one inhabits; unfortunately, “fun” isn’t quite achieved through it.
Graphics & Sound – Immense Immersion
When it’s not the name, it’s the visual aesthetic. While not always clear-cut, if a game is pretty, it’s probably “pretty” good. Evan’s Remains has that sort of majestic 2D make-up that makes it immediately enticing, even without context. A lone woman with a sun dress and hat, running around the beaches of a deserted island as nature moves and caresses the sky in the background. Gorgeous. The detail and clear capacity for pixel artistry is evident here, and the experience benefits from it tremendously.
Not all is created quite equal, however. Characters portraits are a little sketchy, and could probably use a little more refining to provide the same level of minimalist beauty that the in-game models and environment incorporate. Some of the animations are also a tad too slow for my liking, dragging out certain cutscenes when I just want the game to move forward with the dialogue. These are minor setbacks, though, as most else are little less than lovely, with extra praise suited for the intriguing settings present on the island. There’s a level that’s coated entirely in beautiful red flowers; I was in awe.
From an auditory standpoint, Evan’s Remains doesn’t quite stand up to the might of its visual counterpart. I do enjoy the title theme, which feels appropriately bittersweet and indie-ish—tinged with emotional ebbing. Otherwise, much of it feels appropriate for the situation present, whether mysterious, spooky, dramatic, or foreboding. Almost purely ambiatic, which probably sets it up nicely for those wishing to be immersed. I’ve always preferred a fusion of ambiance and energy, so it’s not entirely to my liking, but it didn’t displease me in any way, nor did it bore me. Intention applied, it does what it needs to do.
Evan’s Remains was reviewed for PC via Steam, and a review key was provided by Whitethorn Digital.