Title: Evil Genome 光明重影
Genre: Action, Adventure, Indie, RPG
Developer: Crystal Depths Studio
Publisher: Crystal Depths Studio
Release Date: Aug 7, 2017
Evil Genome from Crystal Depths Studio ticks off a lot of boxes for game to be right up my ally. The game features a 2.5D adventure in that classic Metroidvania style. It also features crazy looking baddies, a female lead that’s cyber-enhanced, and massive boss battles to fill that action itch. Evil Genome does so many things right on so many levels, but it also comes up short in several areas, most notably the story and it’s really terrible translation.
Right off the bat you are going to notice that Evil Genome is a fairly nice looking game with an anime-like atheistic. The character models and enemies all look fantastic, and their animation is also top-notch. Because the game uses the Metroidvania styling, everything is slightly pulled back which works great for the art-style. The game is set in wasteland setting which pairs really well with the cybernetic character. It feels like this should clash, and it might to some, but the warm earth-tones of most of the environments really play well of the colder, science fiction styling of most of the characters.
Unfortunately, the story leaves a lot to be desired. Because Evil Genome is a single-player affair, the story is going to be a huge part of the game. There has to be a reason to continue playing a title and the game does that, but not in the best of ways. This is clearly a translation into English and you get the requisite Engrish, but it also gets worse than just that. Text is often misaligned and the spacing between words and punctuation is all over the place. There are also very simple words that are butchered, and this happens in the game and in the description on the Steam store page. It wouldn’t have been all that hard to ask an English speaking friend to give everything a once over for a few bucks.
Aside from those annoyances, Evil Genome’s story still isn’t much to write home about. I won’t spoil anything, but so much of what happens is pulled straight from the cliche handbook. Most players are not going to care, but I know there will be a lot of you out there that will groan more than a few times with some of the plot points that the game walks you to/through. It also doesn’t help that the game features a great deal of “voice acting”. It’s strange that the game uses English voice actors and put in all that work when the script isn’t even translated very well at all. The actors themselves aren’t terrible, but they feel bored and disconnected more often than not.
That all is a shame, but nothing that would kill a game outright if the gameplay works well. Thankfully, Evil Genome plays pretty darn well. The fighting lets you use two techniques on the fly with both slashing (your swords) and shooting (your guns) to take care of the enemies the game tosses your way. But it goes deeper than that because you can upgrade your character and unlock all sorts of abilities. These abilities can then be assigned to your controller/keyboard to use on the fly. You also can’t can’t use all of them once unlock them whenever you want as they can only be equipped to a limited number of action slots. This means you have to figure out a strategy depending on the enemies, but you can pause the game at anytime to swap things out.
The animation is super smooth and makes pulling off combos quite a bit of fun as things flow really well. These combos also come via the upgrade menu and you’ll be unlocking both abilities and combos as you advance. It doesn’t seem like there is a lot of depth on the surface with games like this, but Evil Genome really crams a lot into a very small package. Enemies are quite varied and each pose a unique threat. You aren’t simple going to be slicing through stages as there really isn’t that many enemies that are simply fodder. Everything has a pattern and way to deal the most damage, but it’s always work and never just mindless action.
Where the game really shines though, is with it’s implementation of boss battles. There are the big bosses that you’ll face at the end of missions you pick up along the way as well as sub-bosses that make your path more difficult. These bosses are all really fun to deal with and you are going to be dying over and over again. This doesn’t sound very much fun, but there are clear patterns that you need to find before you can take down even the first major boss. Odds are you aren’t going to beat a boss on the first go, but with some practice you’ll start seeing patterns. This gives you a real sense of accomplishment and keeps you pushing for more.
That said, you can easily get yourself into trouble. Many bosses are really hard, even when you understand their patterns. The game will punish you if you aren’t at the correct level when facing of against enemies and bosses. This is a problem because the world is fairly open and you can explore a fair bit, which can get you into some areas that will leave you dead before you even know it. Because of this, Evil Genome ends up feeling a bit grind intensive at points. Thankfully, the gameplay works well-enough to keep you pushing forward even when you are backtracking as is par for the course in a Metroidvania style game.
And because of all this grinding you are going to be amassing quite the bit of loot in the game. You will find weapons and armor, as well as temporary stat boosts and health powerups. These can all be used on the fly, or used from the menu. Because the game let’s you do this whenever you want, it helps deal with some of the difficulty that’s presented. After most every boss fight I found myself to have completely blown through everything I collected. Luckily you can access the store at every single save point in the game. So if you see a save point odds are you are midway through a section, or a boss fight is just around the corner.
Evil Genome is an interesting title, but one that is more hit than miss. The game will also only run you $15 which makes it much easier to recommend. Everything about this one seems like the developer really wanted to make a game for fun and not to simply turn a profit. Still, some clunky elements including with the controls (An Xbox One controller worked the best) and some bugs keep it from being something really special. Thankfully, all the issues most people are having can be addressed in future patches, so if you wait on this one it can only get better and more polished.
Reading the Steam reviews and discussions it seems like a number of people are having issues, but I didn’t run across any of the major ones that were brought up. The game ran very well and I never had enemies bug out. Some complained about achievements not popping up, or showing up at all, but I never really pay attention to achievements, so I can’t really comment. Evil Genome has been out for a little bit now, and a patch was released before this review, so it could be that a lot of the issues out there have already been addressed.
In the end, Evil Genome is a good bit of fun that should fill that itch for those that really love the Metroidvania genre.
A copy was provided for this review