As the Roman poet Phaedrus once wrote, “Things are not always what they seem…”. Looking at Evergate for the first time, it appears to be a pure platformer, guiding a cute spirit named Ki through multiple stages while using the power of the soulflame to overcome obstacles. Given the graphical comparisons to Ori and the Blind Forest (or its sequel Ori and the Will of the Wisps), it would be easy to expect Evergate to be a metroidvania, but, it isn’t that type of game.
At its core, Evergate is a puzzle platformer that is woven together with a tale about Ki, a lost soul in the Afterlife, trying to make her way back to Earth through the Evergate. Upon entering the Evergate, Ki encounters memories of a kindred spirit, which she learns about through its past memories as she journeys deeper into the Afterlife. Each level is a single screen platforming puzzle similar to Celeste and The Messenger. To learn more about the memories, Ki must complete a series of challenges armed with a beam of energy called a soulflame that can be used to activate different types of crystals in her attempt to reach the end gate of each level.
By the Power of the Soulflame
Evergate takes a single mechanic and mixes it up in a variety of ways to create an engaging experience. Each memory introduces a new type of crystal. The beginning levels of each memory casually introduces the player to a new crystal’s intricacies. As the memories progress, crystals from previous memories are woven into the mix, culminating in levels at the end of a memory that use all of the known crystals together in one puzzle. The different types of crystals are excellently mixed together, creating challenging (but not impossible) puzzles to solve.
What Does This Do?
The developers expect players to experiment. Each time a crystal is introduced, there is no tutorial, but the crystal is placed in a position that requires it to be used. Perhaps the developers took a few lessons on level design from Shigeru Miyamoto. Completing a puzzle on the first attempt is rare. Each level plays out like a mini roguelike game as players make mistakes and restart the puzzle, hopefully progressing a little further each time before making another mistake. Restarting the level is as simple as holding down a button, and the puzzles are small enough that restarting doesn’t feel like a punishment. Because of this progress, as minimal as it was sometimes, I never felt stuck.
While getting to the gate at the end of the level is the main objective, each level also includes three auxiliary goals: collecting the three essence fragments, activating all of the crystals and reaching the gate within the given time limit. Completing these goals are absolutely optional, but there is a great incentive to try. Achieving the goals unlocks artifacts which bestow additional powers to Ki. There are three artifacts to earn per memory, and once earned, they can be used on any level. I found myself only using a couple of the artifacts throughout the game, one of which I earned in the first memory, even though there were over 20 artifacts available.
I think the artifacts could have been better utilized seeing as I only used a couple of them, but this is a minor complaint. Honestly, there are very few negatives about Evergate. My biggest complaint is that there is no level select from the pause menu. Quite often I completed a level without fulfilling all of the goals and wanted to return to the previous level which required returning to the main hub and entering the memory again. It’s at most an extra 10 seconds to get back to the level, but it became an annoyance due to my play style of not wanting to move forward until I fulfilled all of the goals on a level.
If the worst thing I have to say about a game is that I was inconvenienced during level selection, that should say volumes about the game’s quality. Evergate was an addictive experience. Every time I booted up my Nintendo Switch, I wanted to solve a few more levels before I played anything else. Anyone looking for a mental challenge will find it in Evergate provided that person doesn’t mind some trial and error in solving the puzzles. The lovely hand-drawn graphics are a bonus to the exceptional level design and gameplay. Evergate is a complete package and is easily one of the best games I’ve played this year.
|Pick up and play|