When I first saw screen shots of Element4l, the first thing I thought was “Oh, great. Yet another artsy platformer.” While the game does have a unique style, Element4l quickly became a fun, addicting and different platformer that took me by surprise.
Players take on the role of an existence that can transform into four different elements: air, ice, rock and fire. The game tasks players to reach the end of the level by simply going from left to right. Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a game if it were that simple. Players will have to use these different forms to move, create momentum and figure out environmental puzzles.
Changing elements is all done with the arrow keys. In fact, that is the only way to play the game. When changing from one element to another, with the exception of ice, it will use energy that is represented by a circle surrounding the character. After using up all the energy, it will take a few seconds to recharge.
The air element allows players to float and with a simple push of the up arrow key, they can eject themselves to go slightly higher. The fire element sends the character forward in a quick shot. Both the fire and air elements will “die” if they touch a hard surface or ground. The rock element allows players to gain falling momentum. Rock will also sink in water. Ice is the only element that doesn’t require energy and can slide on surfaces to gain some quick momentum.
The game will challenge the player and in later levels, will require some quick thinking and some fast button presses in order to make the jumps and fast turns the environments provide. There may have been a giant wall I needed to get over, but I would run out of energy just trying to float my way up via an air bubble. Luckily, there was a pool of water at the bottom of the wall. I changed into rock, sank to the bottom of the pool, changed to air, and gained lots of momentum floating up to the surface of the water. I then used that momentum to project myself even higher to reach the top of the wall, switched to fire to spring myself to the right, and then quickly changed to ice to slide down the wall on the other side. Things like this are what players will be figuring out in Element4l. It may take a ton of trial and error, but when I finally did pull off that trick I needed to, it felt great.
It can get somewhat frustrating in two aspects: the trial and error of losing over and over, and the fact that sometimes I would try to go back without restarting. The game features checkpoints, but sometimes I found that I just over shot a mark or missed a platform that I could try to correct, but after going right, trying to go back left is a nearly impossible effort. So I would find myself going back and forth on a half-pipe type of hill making no progress.
Players are rated for each level depending on how many times they died, how fast the level was completed and how many collectibles were found during the stage. The game also has a time trial mode that has players going through levels trying to make it to the end by in the best time possible.
As I said above, the art style is a nice blend of dark and washed out colors that fit the overall theme of the game. There are also little phrases and dialog entries that pop up after making it a certain distance. These originally started out as a tutorial to show players how to play, but in the later levels began referencing RPG’s and classic movies from the 80’s. It was quite clever and I really enjoyed them. The other important detail of the presentation is the soundtrack. I can’t say it enough that I am in love with the soundtrack to Element4l. The electronic sounds mixed with beats and tone made playing this game a calm, yet exciting ride.
Element4l really surprised me. I was not expecting to find this much enjoyment out of what looked like just another platforming game that has been popping up in droves lately. For only $10 on Steam, Element4l will offer up a good challenge with some unique mechanics and presentation; not to mention a fantastic soundtrack. If you don’t mind a little trial and error, Element4l is a great purchase.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.