Every now and then a game comes along that captures your imagination. Your heart is skipping with excitement as the fragments of code are somehow translated into a playable experience that makes it impossible to stop smiling.
Element4l is that game.
From the opening menu the player is introduced to the magical and natural world of Element4l. Made from stark backgrounds with minimalistic art design and warm tones, the game puts players in control of the four elements as they race through the environments. It’s something we’ve seen done a million times before, but it’s the movement mechanics and gorgeous setting that makes Element4l truly stand out from the crowd.
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Using nothing but the arrow keys, players can instantly switch between air, ice, rock and fire to move through the environments. You will need to learn how to master these changes at a blistering pace, because Element4l will throw a number of challenges your way in each and every level. Air floats, fire propels you forward, ice will slide and rock slows you down and smashes through weak paths. What’s the catch? Air and fire will explode upon impact with the environment, while ice will melt in the presence of lava. Using each element in quick succession, while navigating the environments is a challenging prospect, yet the sense of reward upon completion of a tricky section is amazing.
You can’t change between elements too quickly however. A power bar that surrounds your character will drain each time you switch between an element, the only way to recharge is to simply wait. This is when strategy comes in; turning into ice costs no resources so perhaps a double air jump and then a quick fire will send you flying and you can coast for a while as an ice cube. It’s hard to explain, but after just a few moments this seemingly complex system becomes second nature.
Element4l features sixteen perfectly crafted levels, each one outfitted with a perfect difficulty curve that challenges your skills. Upon completion, the player is awarded a bronze, silver or gold flag, determined by how many elements were lost (deaths), how many hidden soul sparks you discovered in that level, and your overall completion time. I-Illusions are also appealing to the growing speed running community within Element4l, offering a race mode which is kitted out with leaderboards and completed with online ghost data. This alone will bring you back time and time again, and the developer has promised free DLC is coming in the near future.
While the gameplay is challenging and excitingly fresh, the visuals and audio are the true standouts with Element4l. Imagine LIMBO as a colourful walk through a magical forest and you should have an image of just how beautiful this game truly is. Dark shadows and deep shades of green, brown, red and gold are shining through in almost every screen, with detailed backgrounds and a friendly avatar that players can bond with.
The soundtrack is simply outstanding. Provided entirely by Australian outfit Mind Tree, sweeping echoes of xylophones, glockenspiels, deep bass and electro beats sound as if they are coming out of the environments themselves. This sounds like the score of a Hollywood movie more than a game, and that’s saying something.