I'll be the first to admit that there's a combination of buzzwords that can get me excited about a game. EverCrawl being a pixel-art, short-session, portrait-mode roguelite is one such combination. But these traits alone can't make a game feel like it has staying power. Unfortunately for EverCrawl, there seems to be little substance lurking beneath its enticing surface.
EverCrawl is a dungeon-crawler where your goal is to take a hero as far as possible past monsters, traps, and more without dying. Doing so is much easier said than done as you can only move in forward directions across a four-lane corridor and encountering any enemy directly in front of your lane or in the lane to either side initiates combat.
The entire game is turn-based, which can help you plan out your moves, but even with all the planning in the world it is very likely that you will meet your end early and often, particularly when you first start playing EverCrawl and only have access to the lowest level of basic hero classes.
Grind it out
The early-goings of EverCrawl make your runs very short, like a handful of minutes at most, allowing it to fit pretty easily into any gaming regimen. As you keep doing these runs, you'll get better at the game and at the same time you'll accrue coins that you can spend on upgrades to heroes you've already unlocked and experience toward unlocking new color palettes and hero classes you've yet to unlock. All of these things work to extend your individual play sessions with EverCrawl, though still keeping overall run length pretty short.
The only problem with this is the road to earning all of EverCrawl's unlocks is pretty long and seems to require a lot of repeat play where very little changes between runs. This might not be a huge problem for a game that has a lot more dungeon and enemy variety or other systems at play, but EverCrawl's tiny scope starts to feel repetitive very quickly if you aren't at a point where you can unlock the next thing to switch things up.
Tough and unfair
You can definitely get better at EverCrawl to the point that--without a new unlock--you get significantly further in runs than you have before. The game doesn't really do you any favors in accomplishing this, though. It takes a long time to figure out how EverCrawl's world works because its rules are not entirely consistent. Enemies can walk over traps without getting hurt but can get hit by other enemy attacks, for instance.
Figuring out all of these nuances is all part of the game, but almost all of them suggest an intention of unfairness as an effort to keep you grinding to unlock and upgrade all the character classes. So, despite my ability to potentially overcome these things, each new discovery ends up working like a disappointing discovery to a game that already feels like it has a lack of depth working against it.
The bottom line
I don't mind roguelites that encourage replayability through persistent unlocks, but you have to make the game feel good enough that you want to replay it even without having a new unlock to play around with. EverCrawl can't clear this hurdle as its only compelling features revolve around the unlock system that is tedious to work your way through.