I'd say that was the flaw with this theme : extremely large space for interpretation. I thought it was a very nice theme, for a time, then it stroke me that most (if not every) games rely on some form of evolution at their core : evolution of abilities, evolution of environment, evolution of difficulty, evolution of story...
Those are the best themes. If the theme was "Save the princess from the vampire castle". we wouldn't end up with a very entertaining or diverse Jam, now would we?
Well... "shades of gray"
And even your example isn't as much a perfect black one as "make a Zelda 1 clone" would be : "save the princess from the vampire castle" only imposes the main plot of the game, you can still choose if you want to make an adventure, rpg, platform, shooter or whatever type of game with any kind of mechanics in it, but yes, it is fairly restrictive indeed.
In opposition, a perfect white theme would be "make a game".
And my point is "evolution", because of its wide interpretation range, is very, very close to this "make a game" extreme.
Now if you can find a game (a good/interesting one) that doesn't have progression (which is a very honest synonym to evolution I believe) in its core mechanics, please name it. I'm sure that could be interesting.
I don't believe a game consisting of doing the same thing over and over again without any change of any kind (environment, difficulty, gameplay) would be an interesting game that could pretend to get to the first place of any themed jam : so obviously, the winner of an "evolution" game jam will be in theme, whether the author actually focused on the theme or not.