Element4l review for PS Vita

Platform: PS Vita
Also On: PC
Publisher: I-Illusions
Developer: I-Illusions
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

It says something about Element4l that I’ve been playing it on and off for about a month now, and I still have no idea what I really think about it. Is it a gorgeous, artsy platformer? An ultra-pretentious game that’s nicer to look at than it is to play? I honestly don’t feel comfortable saying either way.

What I can say, though, is that my confusion stems from how incredibly difficult Element4l is. If I’m being charitable, I’d say that this is because it’s got a fairly unique control scheme, one that forces you to go beyond your usual expectations of how to control platformers into a more holistic way of thinking. There’s no forward, back or jump buttons; instead, as the title implies, you rely on your mastery of the elements to guide you. You’re not jumping from one ledge to another here. Rather, you’re puffing yourself as an air bubble, pushing yourself forward as you change into a quick burst of fire, thumping yourself back down at the ground as a rock, and then gliding up and down inclines as an ice cube — and then, hopefully, landing on the other side of a gap or at the top of a very tall hill. It’s tough — very, very tough — but at the same time, it’s a control scheme that seems fairly new and innovative.

Element4l 2

If I’m not being charitable, though? It’s a control scheme that’s frustrated me to no end. Outside of the first tutorial, there’s no such thing in this game as beating a level on the first try, because getting from Point A to Point B requires knowing every little dip and climb in between, so that you can plan out your moves accordingly. There’s also zero room for error, which means you’d better constantly be on, or else it’s back to the checkpoint for you.

It’s a shame that the control scheme is so hit and miss, because otherwise there’d be plenty to like about Element4l. It looks gorgeous, with the sort of muted, shadowy colour palette that’s so common to artsier platformers these days. There’s also…umm…err…okay, so it’s just the cool look and the interesting control scheme. But that’s not nothing! It’s certainly a lot more than many other games have.

But still: it’s hard. Like, unreasonably hard. Obviously, for some people that’s appealing, and for those people Element4L might be worth checking out. If you don’t want a relentlessly punishing platformer, though, then you’d best avoid this one.

Grade: C+