Adventure platformers are seldom what they used to be: tough and memorable with puzzles that left you guessing for ages and questioning your own sanity. Elliot Quest is a game that once again opens up the windows of memory, reminding us of old school adventure games, like Prince of Persia, but with an RPG element like Castlevania and The Legend of Zelda.
The Curse That Started It All
It all starts when Elliot, the hero, is cursed with a disease that prevents him from dying. Instead, every time he falls in battle he wakes up next to one of the many tombstones scattered around his home island. This curse, known as the Satar, will eventually turn him into a demon if he doesn’t find a way to get rid of it. Armed with nothing but a bow and infinite arrows, Elliot sets out on a quest to challenge and defeat the Elemental Guardians of the Urele Island in an attempt to get rid of the curse.
By looking at the images in the review, you won’t think much of this game. I certainly didn’t when I first started playing it. To be fair, I do try to enter a game with an open mind, which is why I usually enjoy indie games. It doesn’t have the quickest start, but once you get your feet stuck in, it’s hard to get out again. The world, in a way, ensnares you in it with its charm. Graphically it’ll make David vomit, but it’s a terrific example of an indie game that surpasses its visual limitations the more you play it. They won’t look any more realistic, you just won’t care so much. A lot of this is partly due to the ease of the controls – making it easier to get sucked in – and the fact that the game is almost testing you as much as it is testing Elliot.
No Hand-holding Allowed
You see, there’s next to zero hand-holding. It’s almost the pixel version of Bloodborne, sans all the blood and villainous people. It can be just as nightmarishly difficult, especially the last section of the game. As with Bloodborne, Elliot Quest follows a similar story-telling mechanic. Instead of giving you all the details, you have to uncover them slowly, piece by piece. Meeting with people, reacting to certain people and visiting certain locations all help to unlock the mystery around the Elliot, his missing wife Cara, The Satar, The Elemental Guardians and the Island of Urele itself.
The game, however, is simple to figure out, just difficult to execute. There are five main dungeons with optional dungeons and a variety of other places to visit and bosses waiting to rip you a new one. Most of the places you visit are important as they hold key items which are necessary for you to completely explore the whole island. Defeating elemental bosses unlocks magic spells that are used in battle and exploration. Figuring out what goes where, and remembering what places to visit later in the game is important if you want to find everything in the game. If you do intend to play this game, take it from me, note down the area and thing that’s blocking your way. This has happened to me plenty of times and I forgot where to go and how to get there. This resulted in hours wasted backtracking and guessing where to go next.
The locations and levels are really well designed and remind me a great deal of Castlevania. The only problem is that the backtracking is a total pain in the ass. Each tombstone serves as an autosave spot and checkpoint, so if you die, you return to that spot. This, unfortunately, doesn’t help when you’re trying to get to a previously explored area. It would’ve been nice if you could teleport from one tombstone to another, but it doesn’t work like that.
It’s The Good Kind of Difficult
The real challenge of the game lies in the difficulty. Enemies are tough, and some can take a wallop. You’ll only have access to a bow and arrow. It’s basic and has minor upgrades, but it won’t really change drastically throughout the game. This forces you to be smart, time your shots and use magic to your advantage. As you fight enemies, you’ll gain experience, which will eventually make you level up. Once you do, you’ll get the chance to upgrade a specific stat (health, magic, accuracy, shooting range and shooting rate). I like the fact that the upgrade system is simple and has an immediate effect. You can clearly see a difference in shooting range once you’ve upgraded it, the same goes for all the other upgrades.
One of the best aspects of the game is the music and sound effects. Not only do the sound effects sound real, it matches the game and its surroundings perfectly. The same can be said for the music. It adds a lot more depth and mood to a dungeon, forest, desert or wherever you are.
Some Minor Curses
Elliot Quest doesn’t come without a few snakes in the basket. The difficulty throughout the game is manageable and tests your skill in a good way, but the last two sections of the game is another story. The difficulty is ramped up significantly instead of a gradual increase like the rest of the game. The inventory is frustratingly small – you’re only allowed to carry two usable items at any given time. This is a royal pain when you’re fighting a tough boss. Then there are some framerate issues when there’s lots going on in the screen. It usually doesn’t bother me unless it leads to my character’s death, which it did a number of times. The next, albeit minor issue, is that the Gamepad version (you can play it on the TV or the gamepad) looks more dull than the TV version. The colours don’t show as nicely as they do on the TV.
All in all, Elliot Quest is a wonderful ‘High-Five’ to old adventure games and is a great addition to anyone’s Wii U and Indie game library. If you’re a fan of old platforming-adventure games then give this one a try. It’s not easy, and it certainly won’t get any easier, but it’s still fun to play, especially when you’re winning.