Although 2D platformers aren’t exactly known for their emotional storytelling, there have been some notable additions over the years like Celeste and Inside that offered more than simply running and jumping. The short, sweet, and emotional Evan’s Remains definitely falls into that category as well.
You play as Dysis, a girl hired by a company named Up-Bring to explore a far-off island and locate the titular Evan. Something is clearly unique about said island, as Dysis discovers platforming puzzles that each reveal a word that builds into an important phrase. While exploring, she meets Clover, a fellow island explorer whose motive is a bit mysterious. Clover’s importance to the narrative can’t be understated and heavily builds into the ever-weaving plot twists that occur throughout.
The name of the game obviously made me think this was going to be an emotional journey, but whatever I thought was going to happen wasn’t even close.
Evan’s Remains consists of various one-screen puzzle rooms that largely consist of moving and disappearing platforms. It’s super easy to comprehend — some platforms are designed to bounce you into the air while others disappear the moment you jump off of them — and their difficulty steadily progresses from start to finish. While these were sometimes clever and always enjoyable, they weren’t the big draw for me. It was always the narrative. And without it, I’m not sure how long I’d have stuck around.
That’s not to say the puzzle platforming isn’t good, it’s just the story was more interesting. Here you are, exploring an island with all of this weird shit on it and discovering other inhabitants, along with some really bizarre stuff that’s best left discovered on your own.
Visually, Evan’s Remains is a beautiful 2D game with expertly crafted pixels and animations. The puzzle rooms reminded me of Fez in a way, but there’s also a lot of detail in the backdrops and storyboard character portraits that far exceeded the quality I’d expect from a $6.99 USD indie game. A lot of love went into the overall aesthetic, equally so in terms of the platforming itself.
I wasn’t sure what to expect going into Evan’s Remains other than maybe experiencing a decent story, but I ended up thoroughly enjoying my three-hour playthrough. It’s visually and narratively wonderful, with a handful of fucked up plot twists to gasp at along the way. The music is also superb, playing well in tandem with the trippy backdrops and overall concept played out by the story.
If thought-provoking narratives are your jam, this is a game I can wholly recommend for that aspect alone. Hell, there’s even an in-game option to skip puzzles if you really just want to experience the story without exercising your brain too much.
I will say that I don’t except the opposite to be true. If you’re big into puzzle platformers, but ultimately don’t care too much about the story, I don’t think there’s enough going on here to scratch that itch.
Maybe you’ll be pleasantly surprised, though. I know I was.
A digital Xbox One version of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.