Evil Genome Review
Castlevania and the Metroid games have impacted the landscape of gaming so much so as to spawn their own genre: the Metroidvania. Next year’s Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, from legendary designer Koji Igarashi, and cult hits like Drinkbox’s Guacamelee prove that there is still a lot of interest in the skill-focused genre. Evil Genome, from Chinese developers Crystal Depths Studio, may not be as high profile as what came before it, but it nails the core of its experience and is a blast to simply play. While there are moments of frustration scattered throughout when it comes to performance and pacing issues, it’s a worthy adventure to undertake if you’re looking for a quick distraction.
A quirky and often hilarious AI named Alfa joins his human companion, Lachesis, on a journey through a mysterious world after an emergency landing. The localization efforts harm what is otherwise an interesting world. Notes can be found scattered across settlements that tell of oppressed populations going to the mines for work. On the flipside, the world building and environments are fantastically rendered, showing off the downtrodden grime of human settlements as well as the picturesque beauty of alien landscapes. The 3D effect of the environment going into the screen isn’t blocked off or wasted, instead opting to use this space to further develop the scene. NPCs can be seen working on tasks in the background or machines chugging away as they work on war machines to defeat the pair of heroes.
“While there were a fair few number of frame-rate dips, it’s just so satisfying to combine two or three moves together to annihilate every sentient being on-screen.”
As for the play experience, this is where Evil Genome is at its best. Lachesis swings and turns and bolts around or towards enemies effortlessly, shown off best when playing at 60 FPS. While there were a fair few number of frame-rate dips, it’s just so satisfying to combine two or three moves together to annihilate every sentient being on-screen. Whipping out a ranged artillery weapon to land the final blow, after having slashed up an enemy with your sword and dodging behind it, is so satisfying and Evil Genome is filled with short moments of gameplay ecstasy like that. Players can upgrade weapons, abilities, and the like as they make their way through the campaign to make the slaughter even more enjoyable, but it’s all a bit much.
The skill tree is never explained and I had to essentially go off of what I thought each ability would do, only for the in-game representation to work differently. Again, this may have to do with localization issues when translating from Mandarin or Cantonese. But even if it was crystal clear, the skill tree branches off in a million paths making it impossible to see everything. An approach like this only works in games like The Witcher 3 and Skyrim because of the sheer amount of content packed into those titles. The player knows that there’s a long way to go and that they’ll be able to try out most of the abilities by investing one point into it, without maxing out, and deciding whether to go down that path or not. Evil Genome isn’t structured like an RPG, making this approach illogical and frustrating for the player.
“Evil Genome is a metroidvania that gets the most important part right, and left me wanting in every other category.”
Boss battles and platforming sections are thrown into the fray to mix things up, but they aren’t all that engaging. Most times, you’ll just be required to use the same movement ability to get past a wall of hyper-lethal lasers and the same tactic is employed in its Contra-like boss battles. It just feels a bit safe and old when compared to the lightning speed of the gameplay when facing regular enemies. These parts interrupt the quick pacing in normal combat and only focus on one aspect of the game. There doesn’t need to be dedicated sections like this when the rest of the adventure employs all types of aspects in normal play. It feels forced as if the developers thought that they simply had to include these segments when it only hinders the excellent pacing of the rest of the game.
Evil Genome is a Metroidvania that gets the most important part right and left me wanting in every other category. The sheer ecstasy of stringing together a dozen moves is betrayed by the game’s misunderstanding of what it wants to be. However, an unnecessarily complicated upgrade system and disappointing localization issues doesn’t stop Evil Genome from being a blast to play, for the most part.
*** PC code provided by publisher ***
- Fast-paced gameplay
- Gorgeous environments
- Bad upgrade system
- Odd campaign pacing