We view the world from our own separate eyes.
That was the line from Evergate that stuck with me the most once the credits rolled – a poignant reminder that everyone views the world differently, and one event can vary dramatically depending on perspective.
Designed by Stone Lantern Games and published by Pqube, Evergate was brought to life after a successful Kickstarter campaign back in 2019 and was subsequently released in 2020 for PC and consoles and received generally favourable reviews, and I can see why. For a 2D puzzle-platformer, it’s surprisingly thoughtful – brimming with deep messages about life, death, betrayal and redemption and everything in-between.
Evergate puts us into the metaphorical shoes of Ki, a lost soul who has recently awakened in the afterlife. Ki is ready to reincarnate and return to Earth but finds herself unable to pass through the Evergate, the only way to do so. The Evergate has something to show Ki – memories that are not her own. In order to pass through the Evergate, Ki must navigate her way through these memories and uncover her ties to the kindred spirit they belong to. As she progresses, the connection between Ki and her kindred spirit becomes clearer, and it becomes apparent that the fate of the afterlife may lay in her spectral hands.
Haunting or Beautiful?
You can’t talk about Evergate without talking about the graphics and music. Despite its simplicity, Evergate’s mix of environmental backgrounds complemented by hand-drawn graphics is absolutely beautiful to look at. It looks especially fresh on the Series X, fully optimised with 4K resolution and 60fps gameplay that makes the graphics really pop. It’s bright and almost hauntingly serene at times, and each level has its own unique look and feel to it. Evergate also boasts a charmingly composed orchestral soundtrack that really adds to the overall atmosphere, and might I add that every track fits the aesthetic of the level perfectly. It was a little surprising for an indie game to feature a live orchestra, but it was a great decision on the developers’ part, once again adding to the whole tranquil, otherworldly ambience built up by game’s imagery.
Wield Your Soulflame
Progressing through Evergate is simple enough. You need to work your way through seven uniquely designed areas, each consisting of multiple levels, to uncover your connection with your kindred spirit. There are no enemies to contend with in Evergate, so to complete a level, all you need to do is reach the end gate – simple as that.
You might think that this would lead to gruelling repetition, but that’s not the case. Each chapter is different in terms of aesthetics and gameplay, and the levels increase in complexity. At the beginning of the game, you’re introduced to the basic mechanics of the game, but each chapter builds upon these mechanics. You use your soulflame – a beam of energy that helps Ki throughout her journey – to interact with the different crystals that are scattered across the levels. A new crystal is introduced in each chapter, and each one holds a different function, so the gameplay never gets boring. The first crystal you’re introduced to is probably the most basic but one of the most useful as it propels you upwards to reach higher levels. As you progress though, you also come across crystals that create platforms or destroy barriers blocking your path and more, and at times you’ll be tasked with using a combination of these crystals to make it to the end of a level.
To interact with these crystals, you need to line up your soulflame with the white surface covering parts of the platform, known as the source, ensuring that the soulflame passes through the crystal. When you’re igniting your soulflame, time stills, so you have ample time to aim, but be warned, you’ll fall pretty quickly once you release it.
Evergate is one of those games that is easy to learn but hard to master. Each level has multiple solutions, and you can make your path as easy or complex as you like, but you’ll be rewarded for taking the more complex routes. If you collect all the petals in a level, use all the available crystals or complete it within a time limit, you’ll earn essence, which allows you to unlock artefacts that make the game easier by allowing you to jump higher or fall slower and so on.
It’s also worth noting that you can also make the game easier by slowing it down or turning off hazards. This might feel like cheating, but it doesn’t take too much away from the game. You still have to put in a lot of thought into your route and time it perfectly, or you’ll need to restart the level.
This leads me to my only real criticism of the game. For the most part, it was mostly smooth sailing. I felt like I was being challenged but didn’t feel the urge to throw my controller at the wall. There were a few times the game was painfully difficult though. This is in no small part down to the fact that there are no checkpoints. Admittedly, the levels are short, but if your timing or aim of your soulflame is slightly off, you’ll probably find yourself falling into the void of the Evergate and having to restart – this is especially frustrating when you’re one jump away from the level’s end gate.
A Stellar Debut
All in all, a combination of beautiful graphics, an amazing orchestral soundtrack and clever gameplay mechanics make Evergate a stellar debut offering from Stone Lantern Games. Despite some levels being a little difficult, Evergate is a solid puzzle-platformer with a thoughtful, heartfelt narrative making it well worth checking out.
Developer: Stone Lantern Games
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox One
Release Date: 18 August 2020
Gaming Respawn’s copy of Evergate was provided by the publisher.