Evan’s Remains aims to be a clever puzzle platformer that also delivers a powerful narrative. It doesn’t succeed. Everything about the game is just too simplistic, in one way or another, and it results in the most forgettable Nintendo Switch game I’ve ever played. But there are at least good parts to the game, and there’s reason to believe its largely solo developer Matías Schmied could produce something better in the future.
Puzzles and story and repeat
Evan’s Remains is about a girl going to a beautiful tropical island to find a guy named Evan. It goes a lot deeper than that, with meditations on life and forging relationships, but the presentation of it all is so dull that it lost my attention painfully fast. The game follows a basic formula of “narrative scene, puzzle, narrative scene, puzzle,” on repeat, and there is absolutely nothing else. The entire game consists of walking right in a straight line until you hit dialogue or a puzzle, and the visuals, while beautiful, are recycled regularly.
In some merciful cases, you’ll only have a brief couple lines of dialogue before you march on to the next puzzle, but more often, the girl will engage in lengthy dialogue with characters whose identities only truly become apparent later on. Or the game will cut to lengthy flashbacks (almost always in the exact same place too) that are even more enigmatic.
Lengthy cinematics aren’t inherently bad, (I swear by Metal Gear Solid 2.) but in Evan’s Remains, the vast majority of cinematics consist of characters standing still while talking heads spew line after line after line of dialogue. It’s just exceedingly boring to stare at, which is surprising to say considering the quality of the pixel art. Plus, the dialogue itself is stretched out at times, conveying in four or five lines of back-and-forth dialogue what could have been conveyed in one or zero lines. The game cites visual novels as an inspiration, but the creator just doesn’t have the ability to deftly weave those elements into a puzzle platformer setting.
Fortunately, Evan’s Remains gives you the option to fast-forward through a scene (though even then it sometimes takes a while to finish). Alternatively, if you button mash A and B, you can also find a sweet spot speed that pushes dialogue through fast while still being readable. I resorted to both options at times as my extraordinary indifference to the narrative grew. It takes a deeply patient and curious gamer to fully embrace the narrative this game haphazardly tries to offer.
The puzzles are fun, while they last
All puzzles in the game are about jumping on platforms that subscribe to different logic rules in order to jump over a tall barrier on the right side of the screen. These puzzles always occur on one screen with no horizontal scrolling but maybe some vertical scrolling. And they’re basically fun.
As you proceed, more types of platforms are introduced. Jumping on certain platforms will cause other platforms to appear or disappear. Other platforms will cause some platforms to shift to other spots on the screen. One platform is essentially a turbo-charged trampoline, launching you up into the air with force greater than whatever force you applied upon landing on it. These assorted elements add up to some fun brain-teasers, and a couple took me a while to crack.
However, just as it seems these puzzles are really growing into a decent level of complexity, the game ends. And the final puzzle doesn’t have any elements that tease it’s “the big challenge” at the end of the game. The pacing fails at every opportunity in this game.
Evan’s Remains isn’t for everyone
The narrative of Evan’s Remains — if you don’t skip any of it — probably takes up half the total playtime, if not even more. The puzzles themselves, of which there are maybe 20-25, take around two hours to complete. So honestly, I can’t call the game a bad value at only $6.99, considering the price of a movie ticket these days. But there is just little here to recommend otherwise. The puzzles are fun enough, but the storytelling won’t be to everyone’s tastes. It definitely never strummed my heartstrings.
A review code was provided by the publisher.