Who here loves platformers and how many of you dream of navigating an entire world with no stick controls? All of you, of course! Well wipe the sleep from your eyes and rejoice because that dream is finally here. In Element4l you are not a person; you are an element – you are all the elements. Fire, earth, air water. Only by transitioning your form between these elements can you traverse a difficult and perilous landscape. Sound weird? Perhaps, but you won’t believe how well it works.
I often wish I wasn’t pursued by the relentlessness of gravity. Getting out of bed on a Monday morning wouldn’t be nearly as taxing. In Element4l you begin life as a bubble of air. A quick press of the Triangle button and you’re floating into the sky. But here’s where the catch starts. Life isn’t fair and in life you only have limited amount of energy to keep on going. Try to get out of bed on Monday morning after a weekend of no rest and all play and you’ll be sinking back into the pillows, but at least in that scenario you won’t pop the moment you hit the flannelette. A few triangle taps into your bubble’s journey and you will begin to sink back to the ground and if you touch it or any other surface it’s bye bye bubble. You’ll need to change into a solid form for a bit of a rest.
Press square to turn into a block of ice or X for a piece of rock. Both forms will save you from an embarrassing pop! but you’ll need to consider carefully which form will also get you wherever you need to go. Your ice form is great for sliding down slopes and even flat terrain if you can gather enough speed. However your rock form will give you weight. Sometimes it will be obvious when only rock will do. Perhaps you’ll need to smash through the ground to get to a nice slidey tunnel for your ice form. Other times you’ll need rock to help you gather speed. Float up as a bubble, drop like a stone from your great height and turn into ice to slide down and along at enough speed to slide you across the screen and around the curly upside down slope. Oh and figure all that out with your teeny tiny amount of energy.
The last element is fire. This is the only form that will give you some degree of forward movement. Circle will turn you into a ball of fire that will propel you a precious few millimetres. Like the bubble, you won’t want to touch surfaces in this form. Hit the ground and your flaming glory will explode like a disappointing firework. You can, however, use your fireball body to bounce off lava and thereby use this to change direction. Although you might find you need to shoot towards the lava as a ball of fire, change to ice at the last second and melt into a soggy puddle that can drip down tiny gaps.
It all sounds very fiddly but it really isn’t. The game does a stunning job of easing you in slowly and teaching you how to exist and survive in your rotating form. After a while, movement becomes smooth, natural and instinctive. You’ll wonder why you ever bothered to use a stick. Change to an air bubble to jump up, fire to propel forward and ice to land and slide further forward. Repeat this process to gather more speed for a jump or a steep upwards slope. What could be a bothersome way of simply moving right will eventually become as instinctive as putting one sober foot in front of the other.
Element4l is a game all about ebb and flow. It’s not a jarring game, a violent, fast or stressful game. It’s a chilled rearrangement of your reflexes. It’s a boneless slide from your bed to the kettle to the sofa. There’s no running, no ticking clock or need for speed. To beat this game you need learn a new calm way of being. Button-mashing will see your downfall. Some wisdom from me to you: a rushed bubble always pops. Remember that, young Padawan, and you will succeed in Element4l.
Of course before success, a tantrum will inevitably rear its disgusting pickled head. The game eases you in so smoothly and effortlessly that by the time you reach the third level, aptly named Willpower, you’ll wonder how such a tough difficulty crept up on you. The real challenge begins here and follows through to the last level. You can click L1 for a demonstration of how to conquer any part of the game, but even seeing the shadow version of yourself whizzing buy and changing states, copying him isn’t always a slide through the park. You’ll need calm timing and a good observation of how fast you need to be traveling and exactly when to make your transformations if you can’t match the speed of your helpful shadow. Even in these late stages, you are constantly learning about your existence, abilities and limitations. If your elemental self had toes, this game would keep you on them, always pushing you that little bit further and that little bit harder. Element4l held my attention from start to finish.
Element4l is a beautiful and soulful little platformer. There’s no running or jumping in this world. Movement is achieved simply by transitioning between your elemental forms. It’s an odd feeling at first, but once you’ve glimpsed how easily movement can be achieved, you’ll be sliding, floating, shooting and dropping like it’s always been your primary nature to do so. A chilled game, supported by a first class developer. Great soundtrack, lovely smooth minimalist graphics and original gameplay. Element4l is just awesome.
S J Hollis Rating – 8/10