Today in Gaming: I took a look at a game called Element4l -- the first from indie game publisher I-Illusion based out of Brussels. This quirky little game was really intriguing. You play as an entity made up of four elements -- air, fire, stone, and ice. You can switch between these forms whenever you like and must do so in order to navigate the world. This game tests your reaction time and problem-solving skills.
Characters and Enemies
So, your character -- we'll call you an entity -- has the ability to switch between four different elements: air, ice, stone, and fire. Each of these elements has different benefits and drawbacks. For instance, air can float but will pop if it comes in contact with anything.
While playing, during a cutscene, there were these floating eyes in the void that didn't have any story behind them, so I don't know if they were future enemies I would have to avoid/deal with or if they were my ultimate goal or what. But... I'm intrigued.
Mechanics and Units
Progression is based upon shifting from one element to the other and using the benefits of each element to navigate the board. You can leap forward and give yourself momentum with fire, then switch to ice to slide across the ground, and smash through walls as the rock. But at no time can you simply move right or left. These limitations are what make the game fun.
But aside from yourself and the board -- which is full of lava, rocks, and barricades -- I didn't encounter any other mechanics. That's why I think of this game more as a puzzle game than a platformer.
Story and Setting
There isn't really a story -- at least at the beginning. I made it all the way to S1E3 and at no time did they tell me why I was advancing forward through all of these puzzles. In fact, I really enjoyed the intro because the goal was to unite the elements and it was really neat trying to go forth and collect your friends so you can then work together. It was even more awesome to be limited in what I could and couldn't do by what elements I had and had not found.
I wish that there was more of that in the game.
Setting appears to be just a nebulous world full of narrow passages and plenty of smooth surfaces that you can slide across. Not much else is known about it.
I would say that of all the aspects of the game, story is the weakest.
I played the game on Steam. There's an interface when you first start up the game asking you what resolution you would like, whether you want the game windowed, and an optional keybinding menu. Then, once in the game, you can control music levels and switch to a lower difficulty. Very simple, very clean.
The background is a 2.5D type of deal, where the very back background is blurry, the medium back background is less blurry, and the foreground is crisp. It's all very nebulous and almost like you're playing in a distant world that's full of fog. Your little dude (or dudette) is cute and his (her) obstacles are simple, yet have nuanced particle effects that make the whole thing pop.
The game seems to be of good quality, though I did have two frame rate drops during my recording. However, given how simple this game is in design, you should not be concerned about this. I found no bugs.
There's actually quite a bit of replayability here. Each level can be revisited after you finish it, so if you want to go back and see if you can beat it only dying six times instead of 27, you can do that. There's also a time element -- though shaving off seconds in levels that are this long will probably not appeal to everyone.
- Challenging; you'll need your thinking caps for this one.
- Creative; I like how the various elements that compose "you" compliment each other.
- The game does a great job of letting you know where you'll find wind (air) or lava (fire) or places that you can break through (stone).
- Once in game, the settings menu has a switch to make the game easier to play if you're looking for less of a challenge or if your kids want to try it.
- Lack of any kind of compelling reason for progressing forward; the only goal seems to be to prove that you're smart enough to beat the level and that worries me. How many people will actually finish the game without a call to action?
- The word "platformer" -- which is the word the publisher chose -- is not entirely accurate when describing this game; from what I played of it, I would consider this game to be a puzzle game.
I like this game. I enjoy how challenging it is. I wish that I knew a little bit more about why I'm attempting to progress forward through these levels, but -- with that being said -- the game did hint that there are floating eyes in my future, so there must be some more story that I just haven't gotten to yet.
I feel very strongly that you should think of this game as a puzzle game more than a platformer. With that being said, it's a great puzzle game and worth checking out if you enjoy a tough challenge.