“Suitable for kids and big kids.” – BandanaKid, 2019
Before putting pen to paper on my review of Elli, the puzzle-platformer from BandanaKid, I was reflecting on the over-arching reason why I enjoyed it so much. Was it the superbly well-crafted environments I had traversed during my time with the game? Could it be the beautiful soundtrack that often I sat back and listened to with eyes closed? Or was it the game mechanics which responded well to every step I took? In short, it was none of these. They are all very valid reasons, but for me, the answer can be found in the aforementioned quote from the publishers on the Nintendo eStore. The quote “suitable for kids and big kids,” embodies all that Elli is about – good, wholesome fun.
Part way through my first game session with Elli, it dawned on me that my experiences with platformers had waned somewhat in recent years. Since the days of Spyro and Rayman, I have often found myself gravitating towards games from different genres. The fact that Elli prompted me to reflect on this, can only mean one of two things. Either I was reminiscing about better times, or Elli had reminded me of what I had been missing out on. Fortunately for Elli, it was the latter. Although nothing ground-breaking, and involving a storyline that has been recycled time and again, it offers an excellent balance between puzzle and platforming and this was something I had forgotten was so enjoyable.
A sight to behold…
In what I hope is apparent through the screenshots scattered throughout this review, the graphical content in Elli is a sight to behold. Beautiful in either docked or handheld mode, I often found myself looking forward to what the next location would entail. Almost as soon as it arrived, I was equally as disappointed to have left the old one behind. Although the graphics of a game are not the be all and end all of a games’ successes, it certainly helps to attract gamers to it and to build an atmosphere in-game. I knew as soon as the details of Elli were released, it was one I had to play, and I am glad to have experienced the vibrant colours and attention to detail.
The perfect compliment to an excellent game setting is audio, and again, Elli comes up trumps. Advertised on the eShop as ‘a vast and ever-changing soundtrack,’ the developers have clearly placed importance on it, explaining that it is one that is always ‘beautifully blending the themes of the world and underscoring Elli’s adventure.’ I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it and it was a fantastic accompaniment to the game itself. I refused to play this game without my headphones in, and that in itself, speaks volumes – pardon the pun!
This story is a familiar one
As I have already mentioned, the story-line here is one you will be familiar with. Someone has stolen something important to the community and you must travel across the lands to retrieve them. In this particular platformer, there are five crystals which you need to obtain to ensure the safety and survival of the Mandagora race. To do this, you must find keys, collect gems, manipulate switches, and avoid falling from great heights. All of this is done using your trusty magical staff which can be used to uncover hidden platforms.
I am a firm believer that the success of a game is largely dependent upon a number of external factors. For example, any game released during the same month as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has its work cut out to secure sales – there is no denying that. The same applies here, however the difficulties are much more widespread than the example I just mentioned. In the last 12 months, the Nintendo Switch has seen a plethora of highly rated platforming titles grace its system. Celeste, Crash Bandicoot, New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe…you name it. Each offering something inventive and unique to keep it at the forefront of the platforming genre. Unfortunately, it is here that Elli becomes unstuck: for all its beauty and charm, the gameplay is definitely tried and tested. As well as this, the largely linear game design leaves something to be desired and the fixed camera felt outdated in this highly developed genre.
Earlier, I made reference to the quote from BandanaKid about the accessibility of the game for both children and adults. I feel that it is here that the game will divide opinion. I enjoyed my time with Elli because I could pick it up and play, had time to enjoy the scenery and the beautiful soundtrack, and that it wasn’t ever too taxing. Unfortunately, in making it a game for all, something has to give, and the level of challenge here is almost non-existent for any experienced puzzle-platform lover. I was never stuck with what to do for too long and my brain was mildly taxed at the best of times.
Elli offered a world that I could escape to during busier times in the real-world. Its soothing soundtrack and outstanding visuals provided ample opportunity to relax and enjoy the relative calm that the game offered. Sometimes associated with frustration and challenge, Elli bucks the platforming trend and it is here where you can find its true beauty. For some, this will be ideal, and for others, it will not offer enough. Either way, I hope there are enough gamers out there that can resonate with what BandanaKid have created as I believe the developers are just the sort we all want creating games for this ever-expanding industry.
Beard Score: 7/10
Nintendo Switch Essentials:
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 10/01/2019
No. of Players: 1 player
Category: Adventure, Puzzle, Platformer
Download link: eShop