Evoland was born out of Ludum Dare 24, a game jam competition in which you have 48 hours to create a game according to a set theme. The theme that particular time was 'evolution': the developers of Evoland took that idea and ran with it. As the player character travels through the realm he collects parts of the game's engine alongside the classic RPG/adventure trappings of sword, loot and baubles. The first screen in the iOS version of the game (the original can be played here) is shown below.
For anyone looking at the above screen and worrying that they're going to be ripped off, the graphics do evolve from this pretty quickly and eventually change into models that might tax a DS but a 3DS would snigger at. In a similar way, the Zelda-like gameplay iterates into something better than 'stick sword into baddies', exactly like the actual Zelda series. On top of that, the overworld starts to include random turn-based battling, which sits awkwardly alongside the sword-swiping dungeon work for the rest of the game.
Concept is king in Evoland and that's no bad thing. You'll be reminded of many past titles as you stride through the slight story: your companion is named 'Kaeris', for Pete's sake, and we won't say more for fear of spoiling things. The story is not the main reason to play the game - the memories it conjures, along with the parody, were the developer's goals.
Although Evoland is packed with references to older games, you will likely be playing it on a thoroughly modern device, which is where things go a bit wrong. The touch controls involve a D Pad equivalent on the left and action button on the right of the screen, as you'd expect. What is less expected is that once you move your thumb off the screen, the D Pad realigns itself so that its centre is where you next put your thumb on it (other fingers are available). This sounds really handy until you get to places where fine control is needed: the D Pad should be in the same place and it's not, quite, so one particular room became the most frustrating gaming moment I've had for many months.
The only other big issue with Evoland is that it plays its aces too soon: the game's graphics and music have been fully upgraded by about two-thirds of the way in. The gameplay still has a few elements to pull out of the bag, of course, but they never have the same thrill as seeing the whole world change around you. Collectible trinkets add to the game's longevity, meaning you'll have a reason to return to the land to get that all-important 100% rating.
Final Verdict: At £3.99/$4.99, Evoland is well worth the investment for long-term RPG/adventure game nuts. Its charm and retro touches carry it through some slightly shonky controls to a gleefully cliché-filled conclusion. Roll on Evoland 2!