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Element4l Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . Element4l is a clever platform puzzle game that sees players shape-shifting between elements. The game perfectly captures the mood with a number of inventive levels, but is ultimately marred by unnecessary pop culture references. Players who can get beyond the forced writing will discover a fun puzzler that is a great fit on the PS Vita. Rating: 71%
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  • Review Score:

  • B
Sometimes a one word title can say a lot about a game. In the case of Element4l, the name helps to convey the simple theme and gimmick. It hints at a game not governed by bullets and explosions, but rather the beauty and wonder of nature. Unfortunately, the unorthodox spelling suggests that this peaceful platformer has been invaded by the worst elements of popular culture. The result is a clever puzzle game that is marred by clumsy attempts to be hip.

You play a blob with the unique ability to change into different elements. Our hero starts out as a floating bubble, able to use the wind to traverse large areas. It won't take long to be introduced to the three other shapes, which includes turning into a rock, leaping forward as a ball of fire and sliding across the smooth landscape as a chunk of ice. In true puzzle game fashion, it's up to the player to figure out how to use each of these shapes to overcome difficult obstacles.

It's not as simple as using one shape at a time, because most puzzles will require players to quickly switch from one element to the next. Our hero will often need to float into the air as a bubble, turn into a rock to gain speed and then slide across the surface as an ice block, all in one perfectly-timed motion. It's almost magical when it all comes together, but can be incredibly frustrating when your timing is off.

What you may not realize from watching the footage or looking at screenshots is that players have only limited control over the shape-shifting blob. You aren't able to walk left or right like a typical platformer, so instead we're forced to use the elemental skills to gain momentum. The fireball does a good job of propelling the character forward, but you'll quickly realize that it only goes in one direction. The good news is that Element4l is rich with checkpoints, so you'll never get into a situation that can't be fixed by pushing "Select." To help punctuate how limited the control is, Element4l only uses the PS Vita's four face buttons.

The game is spread out across several different areas, each with their own unique look and color palette. Even at its most colorful, Element4l is a moody game full of shadowy areas. It has a distinctive style that immediately sucked me in. Between the grainy filter and over-saturated lighting effects, I'm a big fan of the art design.

Element4l (PS Vita)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Had I-Illusions stopped there, I would be singing the praises of this brief but effective platform puzzle game. But as I alluded to at the start of my review, they bowed to the pressure of being hip. The story is told through a series of short messages written for the player. The game breaks the fourth wall, which seems like a cool idea at the start. Sadly, the story spends far too much time name-dropping celebrities and pop culture references. While it never impacts the gameplay, the stabs at humor took me out of the experience.

There are also some inconsistencies scattered throughout the game. Early on, we're taught that our shape-shifting hero can bounce off of fire when he's a ball of flames. However, that rule is thrown out the window minutes after it's established. It turns out that there's a difference between fire and lava, but the game doesn't note the difference at the time. This is the kind of thing you'll learn from experience, but it left me questioning what I had been taught in the tutorial mode.

Once you get beyond the few minor issues, Element4l becomes an original and effective puzzle game. Don't be fooled by the simple mechanics and sparse design, this is a compelling platformer that feels at home on the PS Vita.
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