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Backlog Review | Evil Tonight

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You know, you don’t have to be a decrepit old man with a musky robe, yellowed fingernails, and a weird obsession with dusty books and black beeswax candles to be an exorcist, or medium, or whatever you’d like to call it. In fact, I’m betting you’d get better results coaxing those evil entities to go back to the depths of hell where they came from, as a fine upstanding young lady with a pair of boots made for kickin’ ass, and of course smokin’ good looks!

Well, don’t take my word for it because DYA Games proved that point in their inspired 2D survival horror game – Evil Tonight! Where we follow the spunky young medium Silvia as she tries to uncover the mysteries of a haunting gone awry at the prestigious music academy, San Paolo De Rosa. Here’s how our exorcism expeditions went:

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Survival horror is my bread and butter and although it sounds a bit weird, aside from Metroidvanias, playing them has kind of always been my video game chill zone. In recent years however, I’ve become increasingly fascinated with developers taking the genre and giving it a 2D face lift. I love seeing how they adapt the atmospheric vibes, and other horror staples, to fit into what is an inherently more simplistic style. Additionally, Evil Tonight seemed to be trying to emulate one of my favorite survival horror franchises, Resident Evil, meaning I was all the way on board.

Plus, DYA Games has made some truly fantastic indie games in the past few years, so I had no doubt they could pull it off.

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The first thing I’ll say is if you were looking for a 2D Resident Evil, DYA Games really hit the nail on the head. Everything you would expect was there like having to collect keys of various motifs to unlock related doors, scarce ammo and health pickups, creepy piano melodies that play in the background as you explore the monster infested academy. Even the puzzles you had to solve echoed what you would find in some of the most classic survival horror games. At times it even went outside of the spooky genre and gave me similar vibes to other 32bit gems like Alundra or Star Ocean.

Though that could have been due to the amazingly detailed and colorful sprite work found throughout! Which truly brought me back to my teenage years of playing games on the PS1 and Saturn. I will say however, that although I loved the art direction, it did create a strange juxtaposition against the darker mood that these types of games typically try to invoke. It didn’t necessarily ruin the vibe or anything, but it was a bit funny to see a cute one-eyed bat thing flying toward you when you’re usually served up gory brain craving zombies (or the like).

Regardless, combined with the familiar survival horror mechanics, Evil Tonight made for a compelling and unique experience. It also didn’t take itself too seriously, nor did it fall into the typical “mad scientist makes a virus now everyone’s a zombie” narrative trap, and I appreciate that.

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I really do applaud DYA Games for trying to stay true to the classic survival horror schtick, but to some it may drive them away, especially portions of the gameplay. Like in Resident Evil, ammo and health pickups are in short, limited supply, which can make for a challenging item management extravaganza, but can also hang you out to dry just before a boss fight if you’re not careful. Which means you either have to #GetGud, or restart the game if you chose to save at a terrible time and don’t happen to have a backup save that’ll rewind your progress to before you screwed yourself. Now, I go back and forth on this because it’s not the game’s fault that you poorly managed your ammo and health, but being able to mitigate it somewhat would ease up some frustrations. Something like being partially healed at a save point would do wonders, or maybe an increase to the strength of your knife so it feels like a viable option when you’re low on ammo!

There were a couple of other things that irked me, like the lack of a map, which made for needless wandering, and its slightly awkward aiming mechanics, but taking everything into consideration I really had a great time. Some of the challenges I encountered demotivated me from replaying it and trying to reach higher ranks, which is usually one of my favorite things to do in games like this, but I’d still be super excited to see more spooky adventures from DYA!

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Going into Evil Tonight I had high hopes that it would be the 2D survival horror game I was looking for, and honestly it didn’t disappoint. It may have had a few quirks, and as a fan of the genre we’ve kind of come to terms with things like that, though that may not necessarily be a good thing it was familiar and oddly comforting. So if you’re on the lookout for something of that nature, then I can’t recommend it enough!!

If you’re interested in checking out Evil Tonight for yourself, then you can find it on Steam, the Nintendo Switch, and itch.io!