Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Elli (NSW) Review

Elli is a Nintendo Switch exclusive that is a pleasant mix of platforming and puzzle-solving. However, that "pleasant" combination is over far too soon. See SuperPhillip Central's full thoughts on Elli with this review.

Elli Enchanted

When Elli's sister steals the five crystals that keep the world from falling apart, Elli must go after her, recover the crystals, and do this before the end of her birthday. Along the way, Elli encounters all types of Mandragora creatures that inhabit the world, providing assistance when they can. The most helpful Mandragora sit by gongs, ringing them when Elli passes by them, serving as checkpoints.

Elli's adventure has our titular heroine pursuing her crystal-stealing sister.
Elli is a puzzle platformer set in a 3D world with an isometric camera view. There is no combat to speak of at all within the game, but Elli herself can take damage and even die from fireballs, electric panels, missed jumps into bottomless pits, and so forth. Being a puzzle platformer, Elli has you carefully leaping across chasms, timing your jumps for successful landings across moving, mechanized platforms, and evading hazards with deft precision. This is all the while solving environmental puzzles of a rather nice variety.

With platforms that crumble when stepped on and fire jets, this platforming sequence is all about timing.
The puzzles start out simple enough, but by the end of the game, you'll be taking pause and scratching your head at some of the devious challenges put ahead of you. Whether you're flipping a switch to open a door (whether permanently or needing to rush to get through the passage before it closes), putting a block on a button to hold it down in place, collecting keys, gathering gears to fix a machine, or solving color-coded door puzzles, Elli introduces each concept well before further expanding on them with more challenging versions of the base puzzles. Many times you'll be faced with multiple puzzle types in one overarching puzzle.

Another chamber of platforms and puzzles for Elli to solve.
At five points in Elli's journey, she'll enter a rift area that takes the platforming and puts it into two-dimensions. In these rifts, Elli gets empowered with the ability to double jump as well as perform a "blink" maneuver--that is, a midair rush in which she instantly transports a few feet ahead of her. The goal of these rifts to retrieve one of the crystals stolen and clumsily dropped by Elli's sister. These segments do a nice job of breaking up the game and freshening things up.

Elli has a strict linear approach to its structure, even blocking you off from backtracking to previous rooms. While it would be nice to return to past areas, there's no real design reason to in the game. The only collectibles are currency and Hat Coins, and while the latter is the most limited to discover in the game, there are more than enough to purchase everything in the game's shop without needing to find and collect each and every Hat Coin.

Thank goodness Elli did her carb-loading before this strenuous adventure!
Still, there's little longevity to be found in Elli's five-or-so hour adventure. Sure, I wish to replay the game in the future due to enjoying my time platforming and puzzle-solving, but there really isn't much else to offer. Perhaps something as simple as a death count with online leaderboards that tally up how many times Elli perished in my run through the game would give me more motivation to return to developer Bandana Kid's offering. Heck, even achievements would fit the bill. Just something to make playing through Elli more than once more worthwhile other than "just because".

Why don't you take a picture? It'll last longer, especially since
you can't return to this area after you leave it.
To compare Elli to a 3D platformer such as the likes of Mario would be a fallacy. We'd be comparing budgets of an indie studio to the biggest game maker in the industry. Thus, I'm more forgiving toward the lesser polish and graphical glitches that Elli possesses. The frame-rate does stutter here and there, and there are platforms and areas that look like you should be able to jump on them, but instead, Elli simply falls through them. That's slightly more of an issue that I can't really pardon as easily. Meanwhile, the music is suitable for each area of the game, and it never gets obnoxious or grating.

Elli is an adventure that I thoroughly enjoyed from beginning to end. I just wish there was more to it, especially considering its $20 price tag. Some form of extra or piece of longevity like achievements, unlockables, or leaderboards would make for a more replay-able game, but as it is, Elli is a game with clever ideas and puzzle design, but not enough meat to it to satisfy those who decide to bite on its current price.

[SPC Says: C+]

Review copy provided by the publisher.

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