At one point, Evoland 2 made me play Pong. I thought I understood the game's ambition before, but that was the moment it really sunk in - it really does intend to be every game. The Pong puzzle was just a simple match to five points, maybe a minute total in length, but it was eye-opening.
At first I was ambivalent about this variety-pack approach. I thought that the individual elements were too watered-down to really sustain a whole game in the long run - like, sure, there's a lot of stuff to do, but if it's all second-rate then all you're really doing is sitting through a second rate game for a couple dozen hours. However, I am now fully on-board with this project. I want it to go farther. Pull in more genres. When we found a new time portal, my demon companion, Menos, worried that it might take us to a hellish FPS world. And while I'm pretty sure it was a joke, I really do want Evoland 2 to go for it. It's triggered my hunger for excess now, and there's no way I'll be satisfied with less than everything.
Funnily enough, though, Evoland 2's best moments are when it's not imitating anything in particular. There was this forest dungeon where you had to solve puzzles by shifting between the game's three main time periods, with past, present, and future presenting different obstacles and resources (ie trees were smaller in the past, so you could get by them, but in the future certain enemies were dormant, etc). It's not something that would have felt out of place in a Legend of Zelda game, but it wasn't specifically referencing the series. Similarly, at one point, you fall into a temporal anomaly and there were puzzles where you got trapped in a time-loop and you and your duplicates had to hit switches to get out (and the solution to one of these puzzles was successively suiciding your time clones to "disarm" a series of deadly traps), and a couple of platforming sections where you had to rotate the stage 90 degrees from top-down to side-view, changing gravity in the process.
And as much as I've been enjoying Evoland 2's eclectic approach, I kind of want to play the game it might have been, if it were just a time-based, puzzle-driven adventure game. It's got these gimmicks of shifting art styles and a million and one gameplay references, but when it's not indulging them, it also has some flashes of genuine originality.
It's really confusing, to be honest. There's just so much to this game, and not all of it is "good," but even the less good parts contribute to the overall effect by being part of its over-the-top "let's throw everything at the wall and see what sticks" approach, but I also get the feeling that the game designers are talented enough that they could have made a more focused game and had it stand on its own, and do I even want a "gaming's greatest hits" anthology, and if I did, do I want it built around the skeleton of a game with its own promise, and heck, while I'm wishing for things, maybe the characters could be a little less bland, and . . . ARGH!
I don't know any more. Maybe Evoland 2 is a great game. Maybe it's a disjointed mess trying to get by on its sheer audacity (at one point, you see Mario, Link, and Bomberman waiting in line to talk to the game's oracle, which struck me as pretty cheeky). I don't, however, think the truth is somewhere in-between. Those are your two options.