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1546825706_Evergatelogo.png.69e10ec9cd317f51ab4af53e2138fe12.pngAmong last week's Indie World announcements and surprise drops was Evergate, a colorful puzzle-platformer set in the afterlife from developer Stone Lantern Games and publisher PQube. The game seems to draw inspiration from the best of the indie game scene while centering its gameplay around the Soulflame mechanic that allows for inventive platforming challenges and puzzle scenarios. Evergate may seem like a familiar kind of platformer at first, but its unique mechanics and heartfelt story help it stand out.
 
Evergate takes place in the afterlife where you play as the spirit Ki, who is awaiting reincarnation. But the afterlife is beset by a terrible storm that threatens to destroy everything, so Ki journeys into the memories of her past lives to find the source of the storm and the solution to dispelling it. It's hard to say much more about the story without spoiling too much, especially since the early parts of the game keep things fairly vague. The end of the game however brings together the story's loose ends quite neatly for a truly heartfelt final few scenes that highlight the bonds that transcend lifetimes. It's definitely a bit of a tearjerker in the end, one that can't help but make you reflect on your own personal connections.
 
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The gameplay is divided into short puzzle-platformer stages, set in different lifetimes. Your aim is to reach the goal of each stage by using crystals and the Soulflame to move about. Pressing ZR activates the Soulflame and lets you aim with the control stick to align the flame with a crystal; you then press Y to activate the crystal. Each crystal has different effects, for example the first one you use propels you in the opposite direction, so you might need to jump over a crystal, aim the Soulflame down, then activate the crystal to push yourself up and reach a higher platform. It's an unusual movement system and does take a bit of getting used to, especially since the controls feel a bit unintuitive at first.
 
After a few levels though you should get the hang of things, and from there the inventive possibilities of the Soulflame system shine. For one thing, each chapter of the game introduces new crystals with different effects, which end up getting pretty wild, such as the crystal that creates an anti-gravity field around you so you can float in air, or one that turns you into a fireball that can break through weak walls. Multiple types of crystals can appear on one stage, which is what makes Evergate as much of a puzzle game as it is a platformer. You'll have to work out a viable path to the goal with the tools (i.e. crystals) provided to you, and it can get challenging when there's no obvious path. However the difficulty never feels overwhelming. Since there are only a certain number and type of crystals in a stage, you know in general what kinds of actions you'll need to use to reach the goal. You likely won't get too stuck as long as you focus on what crystals are available to you, and it is rather fun to go through a couple of trial and error attempts as you work out a successful path.
 
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That said, the platforming aspects of Evergate can be rather tricky. Even when you've worked out the solution to the puzzle, actually executing on that solution can be challenging, especially when you're quickly bounding through the level and using your Soulflame in mid-air. As mentioned the controls can take a bit of getting used to, and even with the game's auto-aim system enabled it's sometimes hard to hit a crystal in the exact spot you want. Thankfully though each level is very short, and you can restart almost instantly, so even when you do miss a tricky jump you're not losing tons of time.
 
There are also three bonus objectives available in each stage: collect all three essence petals, use every crystal, and reach the goal within the time limit. Each bonus objective earns you an essence, which are used to unlock artifacts that you can equip. Artifacts are hugely powerful and can make the game significantly easier, whether it's a simple boost like jumping higher or something more specific like protection from falling rocks, which appear on certain stages and can kill you. Regardless, you definitely want to be unlocking artifacts, plus these bonus objectives make each stage much more engaging (and thankfully you don't have to complete all bonus objectives at once, since the time limit ones are usually so strict that you really have to fly through the level with every shortcut you can muster). Collecting a lot of essence will also unlock bonus levels for a little extra incentive. The game's stages are thoughtfully constructed as compact and challenging platformer puzzles, and collecting every essence helps highlight that fact.
 
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The game's presentation is pretty delightful, both in the visual and music departments. The hand-drawn artwork is colorful and vivid, though it can feel a bit repetitive at times, partially because the core visuals—platforms, crystals, etc.—aren't going to deviate too much. Still, there's a lot to be said for the colors and emotion found in the backgrounds. The music is also doing a lot of the heavy lifting of giving Evergate its ethereal, otherworldly atmosphere. The orchestral soundtrack is incredibly emotive and really helps bring the story to its emotional climax.
 
Evergate weaves an emotional story, brought to life with colorful graphics and a moving soundtrack, into an inventive and challenging puzzle-platformer experience. It takes a bit of time to build up steam, but the later levels of the game showcase some sharp level design that require not just thoughtful approaches but quick reactions as well. Though it won't take too long to make it through the whole game once, the challenge of collecting every essence is a worthwhile pursuit, and speedrunners should enjoy finding new ways to fly through each level. Even if you take it slow, Evergate is a worthwhile puzzle-platformer on the Switch.
 
Rating: 8 out of 10 Essences
 
Review copy provided by publisher
 
Evergate is available now on the Switch eShop for $19.99. On sale until 8/30 for $16.99.
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