Developer: Matías Schmie
Publisher: Whitethorn Digital
Supported Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, Mac, Windows
Release Date: June 2020
Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch
Good storytelling is one of the strengths of indie video games, and this holds true in Evan’s Remains (2020), a puzzle platformer developed by Matías Schmie and published by Whitethorn Digital.
Evan’s Remains does not give you much information to start. You play as Dysis, a young woman sent to an uninhabited island by a company called Up-Bring Labs. Your purpose is simple: solve the monolith puzzles around the island and hope it leads you to a missing boy genius named Evan. The guided, dialogue-heavy story slowly reveals plot points and characters over the course of this three-hour journey. The game’s pixel art is beautiful, and the avatars used in the dialogue scenes always perfectly capture the emotion. Paired with a serene original score, the island is a wonderful and beautiful setting for a mystery to take place.
Early on, the game lets you know that you can skip the monolith puzzles. This option is accessed in the menu portion of the game, but I wouldn’t recommend skipping any. The puzzles are infrequent; the player completes maybe two or three in a row before going back to the story. The puzzles are also simple, such as maneuvering various moving platforms in order to leap over a barricade in front of the player. The game throws in more variables as the plot continues, from platforms that teleport to ones that act as a trampoline. Though the puzzles add more variety, they are never truly difficult. Each puzzle can be solved with some time and fooling around, and the sense of accomplishment is worth it. While the game is marketed as a puzzle platformer, there are, in fact, very few puzzles, clocking in around 29 (not including a few post-credits). Towards the end, the puzzles are non-existent, and Evan’s Remains switches to full story mode. It’s a shame as the puzzles are fun and the most interactive bit of the story.
Evan’s Remains plays out as an intriguing mystery. I found myself almost skipping the puzzles just so I could get to the next reveal — a tell-tale sign that the mystery is compelling, however brief. The game is best played completely unspoiled to protect the emotional impact of the story and the surprises littered throughout the world. Though there aren’t many characters to encounter on the uninhabitable island, they all hold an important piece of the story, even if most are never fully fleshed out. Another shame as they are all quite engaging, and the story would benefit from more side-character development.
Evan’s Remains greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. Without spoiling the ending, there is a side story revealed in flashbacks that provides insight into some of the characters’ motivations and desires, which are heavy themes in Evan’s Remains. While we glimpse this for a few moments, we never quite figure out the whole story for everyone involved. The side plot expands right near the end and leaves us with more questions than answers. It’s underwhelming as the consequences of this storyline would bring further depth to this already compelling narrative.
Evan’s Remains should probably be marketed as a playable visual novel rather than a puzzle platformer. With the ability to skip puzzles and the dialogue-heavy gameplay, players who appreciate a visual novel will certainly take to this story. Evan’s Remains has intriguing characters and an exemplary mystery to unfold. It’s certainly worth taking the short time to experience.