Take the protagonist from Kid Icarus, place him in a refined version of Zelda II, repaint all of the sprites in the style of Fez and you have a nifty little adventure game called Elliot Quest available now on WiiU.
You play as Elliot who’s been feeling sick since the mysterious disappearance of his wife ‘Cara’. It’s Elliot’s desire to go out and search for his missing loved one, however the illness that he is experiencing has rendered him unable. Feeling helpless and depressed he decides to do something drastic and in doing so makes a remarkable discovery. After leaping from a cliff in a bid to commit suicide, Elliot discovers that he cannot die. It turns out that the feeling of sickness he is experiencing is actually the result of a demon’s curse and if he doesn’t find a cure quickly he’ll be doomed.
This game is a 2D platform, adventure title with some light RPG elements. It is structured as a large network on caves, dungeons, forests and rural segments which are all stitched together via an overworld map. From the overworld map you should be able to spot four dungeons. Each dungeon contains an elemental power which can be acquired after locating and beating the stage boss. Once all four powers have been recovered you will be granted access to the final area of the game.
Like many games of this genre your ability to travel throughout the landscape will depend on what attributes and skills you acquire on your travels. Early items include wings to double jump and bombs to break through obstacles. Although the game does contain some light puzzle platforming the element that will slow you down the most is the combat.
The game is littered with monsters (oversized insects, bats, blobs, skeletons, knights), all very cliché but this game is a retro throwback so originality isn’t essential. What’s interesting about the combat in this game is that enemies tend to be rather slow and vulnerable for the most part. A Mario, Samus, Megaman or Sonic would make light work of these enemies, however Elliot is a different matter.
Elliot is no super hero. He’s rather slow, a touch stiff to control and his default weapon is a bow and arrow. This weapon doesn’t do a great deal of damage, fires at a slow rate and has very poor range. As he gains experience he is able to upgrade his health pickups, magic abilities, speed, firing rate and shot range. In my experience with this sort of system characters usually start off reasonably competent by default and will grow increasingly stronger as the game progresses. In Elliot’s case he begins the game pretty useless & fragile then once his abilities have maxed out he begins to feel moderately competent.
Elliot’s muted combat abilities actually help set the pace of the game. Since there is usually quite a bit of distance between checkpoints and Elliot can only be hit a small handful of times you have to play the game sensibly and cautiously. Bursting into a new area jabbing away at the fire button isn’t going to get you anywhere. Instead you need to assess the types of dangers around you, keep an eye out for flying enemies or projectiles and try to make as much use of your magical abilities where possible.
When I first began the game I found the first hour or so to be pretty slow. Progression was difficult since my character was incredibly weak and the game offers you little to no guidance as to which direction you should be exploring. However, as I began to familiarise myself with the surroundings I began to appreciate just how good this game is. Elliot Quest does not hold your hand. There are no little fairies offering hints, or intrusive prompts telling you how warm you’re getting. Elliot Quest literally dumps you in the middle of the map and from that point it’s all on you. It’s this structure that helped boost the sense of accomplishment every time I got a bit further into the game.
One mechanic which I thought was new and interesting was how the game deals with penalizing the player if they fail. Like most modern games Elliot Quest does not have a life system, instead every time you die you actually lose experience points rather than lives. It’s an interesting premise in that it awards good performance with extra skills. If you play the game carefully and well you should be able to make progress and level up at the same time. However, if you are struggling it may be a better idea to retreat back to the calmer areas of the map until you’ve sufficiently leveled up. After two night of playing I found myself really struggling to reach the third dungeon located to the far east of the map. As such I deliberately headed to a waterfall area that I had previously visited in order to hunt some easier monsters and gain some experience points. After a good couple of hours of mindless grinding I was in a much stronger position to deal with the challenge.
As you progress through the story you will encounter characters that you can interact with and gain more information from. There will be occasions where you will be asked to make choices in how you wish to progress. These options usually come from out of the blue and do not give you a lot of information as to what the consequences of your actions may be, so it’s often difficult to know whether or not you’re making a good decision. The choices you make are permanent to that saved game and may have an effect on the outcome of the story. One thing that annoyed me with regards to this is that the game only has one save file. I don’t want to give anything away but after making one decision which I quickly regretted I was unable to go back and try again without overwriting my progress first. Additional save slots would have been nice in this case.
Elliott’s Quest is compatible with both the WiiU gamepad and the pro-controller, with the options of viewing the game from the gamepad or the TV. Unfortunately there is no option to rebind the buttons. This slightly bothered me personally as jump is set to ‘A’ rather than ‘B’ which is what I prefer.
This game has been created in the style on an 8-bit classic with a lot of low res pixel art for the sprites, terrain and background scenery. A lot of the sprites in this game are extremely similar to those seen in the game Fez, especially the blocks that make up the terrain as a lot of the textures and patterns are extremely similar. Overall I think Fez actually looks a lot better with bolder use of colour and beautiful day to night transitions. In comparison Elliot Quest doesn’t look bad, it just doesn’t look great either.
The music and sound effects in this game are ok at best. The music certainly fits the mood and captures the essence of a Zelda style game, however it’s not particularly memorable and wouldn’t be something I’d choose to listen to outside of playing this. Overall the presentation of this game is on the mediocre side, however I personally think that the gameplay itself makes up for any of these more superficial shortcomings.
Although I didn’t encounter any glitches, bugs or crashes while playing, it should be noted that this game does contain some highly noticeable performance issues. As I began to reach larger areas with more objects on screen I began to notice frame rate issues. The game never really slowed down as such but the motion became very jerky in places and remained that way for lengthy periods throughout the game. Since this game shouldn’t be particularly demanding on the hardware I can only assume that it’s too ambitious for the engine it’s built on. It wasn’t enough to stop me from playing properly although it was a bit off putting. Please note that I reviewed the WiiU version so I’m unsure as to whether or not these issues will be present in the PC version.
As far as replayability goes the game does contain a number of optional side quests and choices that have to be made so you can replay the game in different ways, however given that this game only contains a single save file and the game itself is very challenging I personally can’t bring myself to overwrite it. If you play the game thoroughly it’s possible to unlock a new game plus mode.
Elliot Quest is a challenging adventure game that requires seasoned platforming skills, doesn’t hold your hand and is as harsh as it is rewarding. The game offers nothing in the way of originality but if you’re looking for a modern take on Nintendo hard classics like Zelda II then I can highly recommend this game. Providing you can tolerate the game’s poor performance issues then I think it justifies the asking price.
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