Element4l Review

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Title: Element4l
Developer: i-Illusions
Game Type: PlayStation Vita
Download: 444 MB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download

EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: No

There are a lot of puzzle games that are coming out on the PlayStation Vita in the form of indie games as well as other games.  Thinking back on games that require you to think, a few come to mind.  Some of the puzzlers that I have played and reviewed on the Vita range from htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary and the LEGO games to Doodle Kingdom and La Mulana EX.  There are a lot of puzzle games on the Vita and that continues to grow.

A category of puzzle games that isn’t as common are puzzle games that require you to solve puzzles by means of physics.  Sure, you can solve puzzles in LEGO Batman 3 by making Robin run up to a computer and run some wires through the terminal, but what about puzzles that require intricate planning by means of the physics and environment around you?  This brings a unique element to the mix, in games like Nihilumbra.

Today, I have a new review for you in the form of a physics-based puzzle game.  Much like Nihilumbra, this game requires you to platform as well as use physics to your advantage to get to the end of an adventure.  Here is my official review of Element4l.

Story

The story of Element4l has you guiding four elements through a journey to travel through the world and create new life while being hindered by the sun and the environment around you.  The story isn’t very involved, as you don’t see cut-scenes.  There will be some sections towards the end to show you the end results of your trouble, but there is no real plot to see.

When you do play the game, though, there are a lot of cute references when you go to different areas.  While they’re not part of the game’s story, there are a lot of mentions to popular media, like Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings.

Gameplay

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Element4l is a physics-based puzzle platformer.  As you go through the various stages of the game, you will be using the effects of four elements to move your elemental character through environments to collect Soul Sparks in order to craft new life in a new life-form.  The biggest key will be using the right elements at the right time to get through one environment to the next.

When you go into the game, you will have two game modes to choose from: Campaign and Race Mode.  In campaign, you play through the game’s tutorial as well as 16 stages with a new game.  As you complete each stage, you will unlock that stage to be used in Race Mode, which isn’t used until later.  Race Mode is a different mode where you can replay the campaign stages for speed runs as well as 16 unique races where you go through environments and try to beat the AI character to the end.

When you play through a stage, your task will be to reach a certain area at the end, where you can collect a Soul Spark.  Essentially, the Soul Spark is the finishing line, like the Flags in the original Super Mario Bros.  The task to getting there isn’t easy, though, and requires a lot of thinking and planning as you go through each section.

You have 4 elements that your character can transform into: Air, which can float and jump into the sky.  Ice, which can slide and gain moment for jumps and leaps.  Earth, which allows for heavy falls to gain extra momentum and break walls.  Fire, which can move horizontally as well as passing through magma unharmed.  You will have to use all of these elements in combination with one another to get through each stage.  At the beginning, you may only need to use one, but later, you will have to combine all of them, like using Earth to gain momentum and using Ice at the last second to lead to a jump to get to a platform.

At first, you may think this is easy.  However, the stamina gauge makes this more of a challenge.  Whenever you use an element other than Ice, you will lose stamina and can only use a few elements.  Because of this, you will need some very specific combinations to get through some of the game’s harder sections.  To off-set this challenge, the game offers very regular checkpoints, so as soon as you get past one area, you don’t have to re-spawn and re-do hard sections just to get back to where you were.  The game also allows you to tap the L button to see the AI do your section after a few failed attempts so you know what to do.

All in all, the campaign of Element4l should only take you a couple hours to finish.  Tie this in with the races, and you’ll be able to spend at least 4-5 hours on the game, along with replaying campaign stages in Race Mode.  It’s not a long trek, but it’s got plenty to keep you busy for a bit.

Controls

One thing to know about Element4l is that you don’t need to worry about being forced into any touch-based controls.  All of the controls for these puzzles are handled by the physical buttons, specifically the D-Pad, Face Buttons, and triggers.

When you’re in the middle of a stage, you can use your elements with either the D-Pad or Face Buttons.  You can use Left on the D-Pad or the Square button to use Ice.  You can use Up on the D-Pad or the Triangle button to use Air.  You can use Right on the D-Pad or the Circle button to use Fire.  Finally, you can use Down on the D-Pad or the X button to use Earth.  You can also tap the L button when you would like to see the AI perform your current section.

Presentation

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As far as visuals are concerned, Element4l looks really nice on the Vita’s screen.  The visuals are 2D, but show a little bit of depth in the animations.  All of the visuals look crisp and clear.  Taking a close look at things, there are no jagged edges or inconsistencies to look at. The developers did a nice job of optimizing the presentation for the Vita’s native resolution.

The negative aspect of the presentation comes from the loading sequences.  The game has load times whenever you load a new stage, and those sequences can be very long.  Each of the load times can take up to 25 seconds or more, even for a simple stage.  This is very long for a load time, especially for a 2D game.

Other than the loading sequences, though, the game plays well.  There isn’t any lag or slowdown to hamper your progress through the intricate puzzles and the game actually runs well once you get into the stages.

Summary

Element4l is a cute and unique puzzle game.  On the downside, the game’s campaign only lasts a couple hours and there are very long load times to deal with.  Outside of this is a fun physics-oriented game that is both challenging and forgiving in one, small package. 

8/10

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