Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Pocket Review - Element4l

When I first wrote about Element4l after the initial press release, I was a tad unsure how the game would work since the developer mentioned that players would not be directly controlling the characters. After a brief hands-on sessions, things finally made sense. There aren't really four different characters to swap between as much as a single main character with four unique, elemental abilities to take advantage of during play. Once I got the hang of the controls and broke myself of trying to use the directional pad to move, I found the game to be a creative alternative to traditional gameplay that worked great in concept, but frequently had me wanting to smash my Vita in anger.

Players use the power of air, ice, fire, and earth to progress through stages that increase in difficulty as you go. The power of air allows for brief moments of floating, but the bubble will pop if it hits a wall or floor. Ice is more durable and can slide on sloping platforms and float in water. Fire can briefly dash forward and is able to bounce off lava on walls. Earth power basically just acts as a heavy stone that causes the character to drop faster. All four of these elements are mapped to their own button and act together as your complete moveset. For example, if you're on a flat surface and want to move forward you will need to become air to float then execute the fire power to dash forward before quickly using ice to slide along the surface using the built up momentum. Thankfully, there are very few flat surfaces to worry about, so prepare for lots of drops, loops, and falls to get you from point to point.

While this is a creative method of control, some of these stages are just outright frustrating. Sliding down a hill with enough momentum to be able to glide across a gap before resting long enough to recharge your power before moving on is one thing, but when you add in another series of complicated movements afterwards that must be completed before losing momentum it gets a little rough. It took lots of trial and error to figure out the best path through an area to the next checkpoint, and even once I knew what to do it often felt like luck played a bigger part in being able to pull it off as flawlessly as the game required than my own skill did. I enjoy a challenge and was able to get through the entire game, but it took a while. My frustration at each area was short lived, as I was ready to dive right into the next challenge after long stretches of failure.

Element4l is a very interesting game in concept and despite my constant deaths, I still enjoyed the experience. With the exception of the few lines of pop culture-filled dialogue that gave me a chuckle, there's very little chatter or reasons to progress through these areas. Outside of that this game seems to fit alongside games like Flower and Journey in terms of creativity, though it lacks the environmental storytelling those titles offered. If you enjoy a challenging puzzle platformer, Element4l is definitely worth checking out, but don't expect to be brought to tears by anything other than some of the difficult stages.

TLDR Element4l is challenging, to the point of frustration in some areas, but is still worth checking out if you enjoy a creative platformer with a unique control scheme.

This game was played on Vita via digital code provided by publisher.

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