Evolution is an Early Access Steam game where the player controls a pool of primordial beings and watches them evolve. Watch cells navigate in tidal pools, fighting to survive and socialize with others of its kind. 

Evolution's primary issue is that it hardly explains how to play the game. And while it technically has an information pane that covers elements of the game, the content is not in-depth enough to cover actual gameplay. 

Screen Elements

When a player first logs into a new game of Evolution, he or she will see a dark screen with three panes popped out: an information pane (lower left), a creature pane (upper right), and a settings pane (lower right), and a colorful... something... in top-center.

I'll break these down one at a time, because each of them has their own issues.

Information Pane

The information pane has four main elements: the primary tabs showing the different game levels, sub-tabs listed under specific level tabs, the small blue information icon, and a button that says "Online Help." The issue is that the information pane raises more questions than it answers.

Primary Game Tabs
What does the green treatment mean?
Under two of the game levels are green underlines. One (under Primordial) is bold, and has serifs pointed downwards. The other (under Tidepool) is not bold and has its serifs pointed upwards. The bold underline suggests to me a few things:

1) That I'm in the Primordial (Soup) level... but the Tidepool underline strikes that suggestion out (plus, I can see in the lower right corner of the screen that I'm in the Tidepool level). 
2) That Tidepool is a creature stage chronologically after Primordial SoupBecause I'm in the Tidepool stage, and Primordial is also underlined but treated differently, I must have progressed past the Primordial Stage. But, with Battle Arena listed last, this also isn't the case.
3) ???I really have no idea.
...What does the turquoise treatment mean?

I thought that the turquoise treatment meant that section is selected, but in the image above, the explanation text talks about the Outbreak level. So does the green treatment mean that's what section I'm in? If so, why wasn't I seeing anything about Tidepool before?

Creature Sub-Tab

And then even later, in the Creature sub-tab, all of the sub-tabs are the turquoise color. And all of the DNA tabs (DNA, Structure, Sensor, etc) are the turquoise color. So, I really don't know what that means.

Why are all of the game levels listed?
Is it important for the player to know the specifics of Laboratory when they're in the Tidepool level? It's now evident that this is meant to be a universal panel across levels -- but when I'm in a level, I don't really care about what the goals of other levels are.

How do I close the information pane?
I eventually found this out -- either by using a keyboard shortcut or pressing the blue ( i ) in the upper right of the information pane. That action, clicking the ( i ) to minimize and maximize the pane, really isn't clear.


  • High Priority: Consider adding a 'Tutorial' level where you explain what everything means (rather than having the player hunt through the information pane to learn the game). In that level, teach them the controls one step at a time (so for example, the first step could be selecting and moving an organism). Once they've successfully completed a task, have them move onto a new one. Show, don't tell.
  • High Priority: Increase the font size on sub-tab and body text (with the exception of the Overview text). It's really hard to read the information panel.
  • Medium Priority: If you create a tutorial level (which I highly, highly recommend), collapse your full information panel (with design changes) into a menu option (like a 'Help' option). And instead, when a player enters a level, they see that level's goal  & reminder text for what certain elements mean. But players shouldn't have to read a novella to play the game.
  • Medium Priority: Be consistent with how you use the green and blue treatments and think about what each version conveys. For example, changing the visuals of a tab from others (highlighting it, bolding it, underlining, etc) suggests that that tab has been selected or activated. If both the green underline and the turquoise mean something is selected, choose either green or turquoise to be your 'activated' state.
  • Medium Priority: Considering changing the ( i ) button to a + / _ symbol, to more clearly show that the menu can be opened and closed. If you start a level with the information pane open, (with the _ symbol in the upper right) they'll know that it's an information pane and that they can minimize and maximize it.

Creature Pane

On the left and right sides of the main screen, a player can see a creature screen. But, like much in the game, it's not explained (unless you read the information novella, and even then not everything is explained). Here are my questions:

What do each of the colorful bars mean?
I think green is health, which may or may not refill when a creature eats? But the red bar refills when a creature eats meat, so it might be that the green bar refills when the creature eats plants? What is the blue bar? White? It's really not clear...

What does the moving green line on the left DNA structure mean?
During the game, a small green line (pictured above) moves up and down on the creature pane. It doesn't go entirely top to bottom, but hovers between to places for a bit, and then moves. I have no idea what this signifies, if anything. It could just be a decoration?

Why would you kill a creature?
It doesn't yield meat for other organisms, so I wonder what the point is. Plus, the font size is tiiiiny.

What do lock and target do?
I assumed that lock would track the creature (so when it swims out of your field of vision, the camera would follow it because it's locked on). But it acts more like the creature's stats are pinned on your screen. This isn't clear.

Which creature panel, left or right, is the creature you currently have selected?
I can't tell which is which.

Why do some organisms suddenly have a blue box around them, even when you haven't clicked them?
And then I believe a creature panel appears, but I don't know why. Are these highlighted creatures important somehow?

Green circle elements
What information on the creature pane is really necessary to know?
Does the player need to know both the age and generation of the organism? The species number and the creature number? What does 'New' even mean?

What is the relationship between energy and on-screen effects?
I read in the information pane that when a creature's energy is full, they reproduce (or something). Is that related to the green circle elements that appear occasionally around an organism? I don't know what the green circles mean -- I've been guessing that they have something to do with creating an organism chain (so lots of nuclei connected by a small line). So maybe when you get the big green half circles to line up with another organism, they evolve into another organism... or something? No idea.


  • High Priority: Have an icon next to each of the colorful bars to show what that bar is -- currently, anyone colorblind could have significant difficult discerning what those bars are and what they mean.
  • High Priority: Increase your font sizes on the creature pane (with exception of the 'Creator' line and the 'Creature' number, if you decide to keep the latter).
  • Medium Priority: Please, please explain what those green circles/symbols around creatures are. Very confusing. Cool looking, but confusing.
  • Medium Priority: Add numbers to the colorful bars. If any of those colorful bars are Energy/Health/what have you, you could add the numbers onto the bars themselves to free up space in the creature pane.
  • Medium Priority: If any of the information on the creature pane isn't really relevant to that current creature's survival, I might remove it from the creature pane.

Settings Panel

One of the more self-explanatory elements of the game is the Settings panel -- although an equalizer icon might be better fitting than a gear (because you have all the sliders anyways).

Settings Panel
My only recommendations for this panel are to increase the font size, to possibly change the icon from a gear to an equalizer, and increase the contrast between un/selected slider elements (so the right side of the 'Food' slider would be darker because the slider hasn't reached it). Right now the contrast isn't high enough (so it's a bit difficult to read).  

'Colorful Something'

Top Bar

I honestly have no idea what this means. I'm assuming the different colors represent different colored organisms, but I don't know what the little red squares below the colors mean. Plus, I feel bad for anyone colorblind. This really needs explanation, and potentially icons to go along with the the colors -- I definitely know that my brothers (who are red-green colorblind) would have a lot of trouble with the red green all the way on the left and the dark red/puke color all the way on the right.

Various Other Recommendations

  • Low Priority: Once you click on a game level for the first time, the three options are 'Continue,' 'Restart Level,' and 'Main Menu.' If it's a player's first time on that level, 'Continue' and 'Restart Level' shouldn't be options -- it should be 'Start Level' or 'New Game.'
  • Low Priority: On the opening screen, the yellow text over 'Outbreak' has a spelling error. It should be "Very Early Preview," not "Very Early Prievew."
  • Low Priority: Within the Outbreak description text, you're missing some commas --> "No worries, these creatures can't possibly infect every single living thing on Earth. Well, probably not, anyway."
  • Low Priority: On the main screen, the player can see bits of the info pane (lower left), the two creature panes (upper left and right) and the settings pane (lower right). Since these are uninteractable on the main menu, don't show them. It's confusing. 

Opening Screen

Final Thoughts

I might come back to review this game again at another point in its development -- there's a lot of content to write about in the Outbreak and Laboratory levels -- but I have work to do this weekend (I've had jury duty, so I've been needing to work on my projects out of the office). So, comments on those other levels will have to wait.

Screenshot of Laboratory Level

Screenshot of Laboratory Level

Screenshot of Outbreak Level

Roguelands (aptly named) an action-adventure, rogue-like platformer in which you play as a galactic cadet exploring planets and gearing up to ultimately take on The Destroyer, a creature which threatens your world. The game is Early Access on Steam and currently has "very positive" reviews on Steam.

My primary criticisms for Roguelands aren't what I usually mention -- its font color, type, and sizes are fine (and its dialogue format nostalgic, if you played JPRGs), its UI is intuitive, and its controls easy to pick up.

The place where Roguelands has the largest room for improvement is in player onboarding and crafting.

The First Few Screens

The first few minutes of the game are self-explanatory -- on the main menu, you can click Play, Data, Options, and Quit. Clicking on 'Play' shows you seven Empty save slots -- and when you click on one, you're led to the character creation screen.

This screen was easy to figure out - clicking on each button had a predictable effect, and the 'Stats' icons had a mouse hover effect so that I could learn what each meant. No too much to much to elaborate on here, but I have a fair number of recommendations/enhancements that don't require length paragraphs to explain.


  • High Priority: Stabilize the initial menu/setup screens by either eliminating the movement of the buttons or slowing down the movement speed of the background.

    Having both a scrolling background and slightly moving platform buttons is disorienting. I'm prone to getting motion sick when playing video games -- and I feel the risk of getting sick when on those initial screens.
  • Low Priority: Consider allowing 'Esc' to be used in the initial setup screens (such as in the Race Selection screen).

    Enabling 'Esc' in the Race Selection screen will save time in the instance that the player doesn't want to change their character's race after reading the other abilities. It's weird to press 'Confirm' for something that's already in place. Plus, in the game itself, you use 'Esc' to close menus -- so why not do it here, too?
  • Low Priority: Consider allowing both left and right clicking on the Character Creation menu to allow players to more easily cycle between options.

    Currently, there are six types of Allegiances that a character can take. If I left click and see the Church of Faust, but decide I want to be The Galactic Fleet, I have to left click six more times to return to The Galactic Fleet option. Allowing for cyclical navigation will save the user time.
  • Low Priority: Add a kerning in the Variant field, "Variant:1"should be "Variant: 1"
  • Low Priority: Consider adding a mouseover effect for the character class type and character allegiance.

    While the names are super cool, I want to know more about what those mean. Sure, they might not have a stats effect -- but I don't want have to Google the game's lore to learn about what I'm selecting. 

Starting the Game

After creating your character, you appear in a space ship and can navigate with WASD. The game also clearly illuminates what items you can interact, as a 'W' appears above your character's head. Simple enough. But once I had explored the space station and talked to all the NPCs, I couldn't figure out how to get off the ship. I first went to my character's computer, which showed two location options: the Desolate Canyon and the Deep Jungle.

Since this computer was showing me where I could go, I assumed that the way to get off the ship was on this computer screen, and that 'Select' would display a 'Teleport' option.

This was not so.

It turned out that in order to get off the ship, I needed to go to what I thought was another computer, but was actually a portal. When I stood in front of it, it said 'Hostile Zone,' which I assumed (incorrectly) was some sort of multiplayer arena.

It was only when I selected 'Deep Jungle' that I saw the connection between the computer and the Hostile Zone machine -- when the Deep Jungle was selected, the screen's color changed from orange to green.

This led to my first death -- I teleported to the Deep Jungle, and being woefully undergeared, I died my first death. A horrible, terrible death. Alas, poor Bubba, I barely knew thee.

My next dozen lives were spent in the Desolate Canyon, and could be attributed to two things: me not understanding the level's puzzle traps, and a woeful lack of health packs.

For the latter, I was desperate to find health packs, but I couldn't find a way how. They were infrequently in treasure chests, and all of my attempts at alchemy failed.

What I discovered, through Googling how to get health packs, was that I was using the alchemy station completely wrong.

When in the alchemy station pane, shown below, the player is able to place three items in crafting slots, and then press the potion button in order to craft. When that happens, the alchemy pane shows a green bar, that swiftly decrements back down to zero, after which the crafting fails. What I assumed  was that I only had to press the potion button once, and that if the items were a viable combination, I would receive a potion. I wasn't sure what the green bar represented.

It turns out that the player needs to press the potion button multiple times in quick succession in order to receive a viable potion, if the player's recipe was correct. This process was not clear to me, not only because I wasn't sure of the green bar's purpose, but also because there was no notification telling me that my crafting had failed. As such, I thought I was putting in an invalid combination of materials, not engaging with the alchemy station correctly.

Screenshot with an alchemy station pane.

Once I knew how to create potions, the early game got significantly easier, and after that point, there weren't game elements that tripped me up.


  • High Priority: Consider changing how you display the progress bars for crafting.

    Currently, it's very unclear how crafting works from the existing visual language. While in retrospect the progress bar makes some sense, it is not intuitive enough to pick up without some explanation. One way to potentially make the crafting mini game clearer is to add percentages on the bar, and have the number decrease over time. That way, it's more clear that one must press the potion button multiple times in order to craft successfully.
  • Medium Priority: Clearly display crafting failure from not getting the bar to 100%.

    This will help reinforce that the potion creation was not due to an incorrect material combination, but from player action.
  • Medium Priority: Change either the teleporter's image or hover text in the space station.

    If changing the image, change it to the same planet icon used in the computer's planet selection page. But my recommendation would be to keep your formatting consistent. Since the teleporters at the end of each level have the next area's name as the hover text, I'd do the same here just to be clearer.
  • Low Priority: Consider changing the layout of the very first Desolate Canyon trips so that the Tip text is to the right of the player, rather than under him or her.

    Because the tip text is below the player's avatar, they may be less likely to see it initially and will miss out on gathering materials until they spot the tip (this was the case for me). I'd potentially recommend making the very first part of the first canyon area lower down (so that they need to jet pack up), and then moving the tip text to the right, under the ledge so that there's better findability.

Final Thoughts

Roguelands is a thoroughly fun game, and I'll certainly be playing it in the future. Let me know if you get it -- the game has multiplayer! :)