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Review: Element4l

Earth, water, air and fire, familiar to all of us and known as the four elements. We face all four multiple times in our lives and see them as something natural, common to all people. We’re not surprised when we see ice melting or fire growing stronger and yet this is just what Element4l does. It surprises you. It takes you on an unexpected beautiful journey where you’ll have to play with the four elements in order to reach the goal.

The story in Element4l is about the four elements bounded to one shape in order to shape new life. The game is created by the Indie-studio I-Illusions and can best be described as a traditional platformer but with its own twist. You don’t really control the element, you rather adapt to your environment in order to advance in the game. Want to go up in the air? Change your element to air. Want to go left or right? Change it into fire and blast your way through the level. Want to glide over the floor? Switch into ice to continue your quest. All these actions can be set in motion with just one touch of the button.

During an interview with creator Dirk Van Welden we learned that the game is created with care and love. The game had to be easy to understand and needed an easy way to control. Using only the arrow-buttons, you can change your element to the desired one and continue your magnificent quest. Element4l is a great PC game but could also be ported to portable devices in the future, if the technology allows it.

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Aside from the changing of elements, this game really surprises with its visuals and music. The visuals can be described as a more colorful version of Limbo combined with the mysterious atmosphere of Journey. Comparing Element4l with those two games isn’t just coincidence. Just like Journey and Limbo, Element4l is all about the flow. It’s hard to get into the right flow but once you’re there, you won’t be able to stop playing.

The flow can be found in the beautiful music created by Mind Tree. The music supports the game rather than just being some nice background tune. During more difficult or fast sections, the music will also change and complete the total experience. Playing Element4l without music is like talking to someone without using your voice. It doesn’t make sense. The combination of music, visuals and controls result in one of the most fascinating and unexpected games of this year.

Playing Element4l without music is like talking to someone without using your voice.

When your find yourself shifting elements as you desire, dodging all kind of obstacles and gaining enough speed to complete the level in just one run, you know you’re playing this game as it was meant to be. Achieving this goal may sound rather easy but it’s far from that. As seen in popular animated series like ‘Avatar’, controlling the four elements isn’t an easy task.

The first time you’ll play this game, you’ll fail. You won’t get any explanation on why or how, you’ll just die… Multiple times. Element4l doesn’t take any time to explain itself, you’ll need to discover everything on your own. Sometimes one sentence will pop up on your screen, giving a vague hint but that’s it. While playing Element4l you’ll notice that you’ll slowly start to think as it was meant to be. It takes time to get there but once you really understand each element and when you need to push which button, you’ll have the time of your life. An example is that you first won’t understand why you need the rock element but later you’ll notice that this element can break through walls. Every element has its own characteristics and it’s in learning and mastering those that you’ll find your pleasure.

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Element4l isn’t an easy game to play and it’s an extremely hard game to explain on paper. Words just can’t describe the (almost magical) feeling the game generates. At first sight, Element4l is just another platform-game but thanks to the unique way of controlling the protagonist (the four elements) it becomes something entirely new. Element4l is something new and therefore you might not feel the urge to play it but it’s totally worth to pick this indie game up. Forget everything you know and let the visuals, music and gameplay suck you into one of the most thrilling gaming experiences of this year.

8.5/10

 

 The game can be downloaded on Steam for 9.99 $ – 7.99 € – 6.99 £

Got interested in games since I could read. Started with Nintendo but evolved into an all-round gamer. I love all kind of games; triple A games to Indie. If the vibe is right, I'll enjoy playing it.