Everyone's plugging into '80s and '90s nostalgia these days, but Evoland takes the retro knob and cranks it to 11 with an actual retrospective of multiple gaming eras and tropes -- all packed into a single RPG. Now Evoland 2 is out for iPads and iPhones, priced at $6.99 with no ads or in-app transactions, and containing massively more gameplay than the original. And it's flying up the sales charts on the App Store right now, so let's see what the fuss is about.
The prologue scene uses a green filter to emulate the screen of a vintage Nintendo Gameboy handheld game console.
Evoland 2 frequently makes meta jokes about games and gaming tropes.
Talking to the inhabitants can reveal clues about upcoming events.
Not all of your quests involve whacking things with your sword. This elderly gentleman wants help with sorting out some tangled fishing line.
The environment is dotted with hidden chests like these, inviting exploration.
This is the "overworld" map where you travel from one story location to another.
Leveling up gives you more attack power, damage protection, and health points.
You won't be flying solo on this voyage. Some of the people who join you have unique skills to get you past certain obstacles.
The game frequently saves your progress in the background, and it will pause if you minimize the app.
Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.
One of the complaints about the original Evoland was its brevity. While a longer game doesn't necessarily mean a better one, you could zip through the main storyline in three to four hours. The sequel beefs that up to 15-20 hours, and 25-30 hours if you want to complete everything. So we go from a whirlwind tour of design styles to a more chapter-like structure, and from stand-ins for notable characters (Link, Cloud, Samus Aran) to ones with more original looks and traits.
The gameplay is also uncomplicated and familiar. The first setting in Evoland II strongly evokes the classic Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, where your attack is one button and you move around the screen to avoid damage. The bad guys drop a mix of coins, hearts (to heal injuries), and experience point containers that you have to walk across to pick up.
You can whack jars and bushes with your sword and sometimes find more coins and hearts hidden in the branches, and the areas you wander generally invite poking around for secret treasure chests. And the cast of characters is quirky and charming. All of these are common elements of early '90s JRPGs (Japanese role-playing games), so playing Evoland II is like getting a pleasant sampler of them all, in a form that you can fit in your pocket.
That said, certain modern technical advances are a welcome sight, such as the frequent automated saving of your progress. A little floppy disk icon will flash in the upper-right corner when this happens, letting you know that it's safe to exit the game if you need to. And the game pauses when minimized, so you don't have to worry about a gremlin stealing your loot while you exchange important cat emojis with your friends.