Every now and then a game comes along that does something different in a way I never would have expected. Visual novels are extremely popular among a niche subset of gamers while others consider it wrong to refer to them as “games” at all. Because the genre is often aimed at such a specific audience, it’s rare to see visual novels combined with other types of gameplay mechanics, but independent Argentinian developer Matias Schmied has done just that with Evan’s Remains.
In Evan’s Remains, you play as Dysis who, after receiving a mysterious letter, is sent to an uninhabited island to find Evan, a scientific prodigy who has been missing for several years. Things grow stranger and more unsettling as Dysis travels across the island’s various environments, meeting other explorers and piecing together the mystery of the island and its long-abandoned civilization. Heavily inspired by Japanese graphic adventure games, Evan’s Remains features a compelling, sci-fi narrative, beautiful visuals, and a variety of interesting puzzles to solve.
Evan’s Remains is artistically stunning with gorgeous pixel graphics and fluid animations. Tiny details, like birds flying away after being disturbed or mayflies buzzing around each other, bring the environments to life and remind me of the detailed and peaceful animation style of Studio Ghibli films. As you explore the island, you will travel through different areas including a forest, a ruined city, and an ancient, but somehow still functional, water treatment plant. These visually distinct areas serve to give the player a sense of progression as they uncover more and more about the reason they were called to the island and what Evan has planned them.
Much of the game is in the form of a visual novel, meaning that a large portion of your time playing Evan’s Remains will be spent reading dialogue. Details about the story serve as an effective reward to the player for successfully completing puzzles, but every puzzle in the game can be skipped entirely for those who want a purely narrative experience. This makes the game more accessible to a much wider audience.
Scattered in between these narrative sections are puzzles in the form of platforming levels. Simple platforming mechanics allow you to manipulate different types of blocks in order to reach the end of the level. Some blocks disappear after you walk on them while others fling you high into the sky or teleport you to different platforms entirely. While the mechanics are introduced slowly and are easy to learn, when combined they can provide some seriously challenging and complicated scenarios requiring a lot of forethought as well as basic trial and error. Evan’s Remains will have you focus a lot more on thinking ahead and understanding the interactions between systems than on timing and reflexes, like other platformers. While I enjoyed the story immensely, I occasionally found it frustrating when I only got to complete one or two puzzles in between long dialogue scenes.
Evan’s Remains tells a deeply emotional science fiction story about friendship, trust, and sacrifice through its empathetic and well written characters as well as its strange and mysterious world. While we never experience what the greater world is like beyond the island, we get clues from Dysis as to what her life is like. Taking place sometime in the future, the world of Evan’s Remains features dystopian themes of corporate greed and unchecked capitalist culture as well as highly advanced technology.
Evan’s Remains blends platforming and storytelling into a graphically beautiful and compelling graphic adventure game like I’ve never seen before. I was able to complete the entire game without skipping any sections in just under three hours, meaning it’s very easy to finish in only a couple of sessions. The game has something appealing for all types of gamers. The puzzles are unique and satisfying to solve, but the option to skip every single puzzle makes Evan’s Remains extremely accessible to anyone who wants a mellow, story-driven experience without any of the challenge. Overall, Evan’s Remains offers a new and original gameplay experience. Whether you’re looking for a challenging puzzle game or a story-driven sci-fi adventure, Evan’s Remains features something for everyone.