Elebits (Wii) review
"Elebits provides is one of the most truly convincing 3D atmospheres yet presented in a console game. Though the visuals are clearly inspired by animation and maybe 1950, they are endearing in their way and really suck you into the experience. If at times there are hiccups, they’re still an acceptable price to pay for the freedom you often enjoy."
Kids need to stop making wishes. Their wishes always come true in the worst possible instances, like when young Jennifer Connelly wished David Bowie would abduct her little brother, or like the time when I wished I could be as smart as the President. Kai, the hero in Elebits, provides but the latest example of a wish gone awry. Without so much as a cursed monkey’s paw, he’s wiped out all of the power in his local community just by wishing that the magically eponymous Elebits would go away so that his parents will pay less attention to their work and more to him.
That’s where the player picks up the Wii Remote and gets to work. As Kai, your job is to use a magical gun that captures the creatures and forces them to lend their life essence to electricity’s cause. You’ll work your way through one stage after another, knowing your job is done when lights glow and telephones ring. Appliances crackle to life only once you imprison a sufficient number of the cute creatures known as Elebits.
Naturally, the little guys aren’t going to commit mass suicide. They don’t want to give up their freedom any more than you want to hear David Bowie sing about little brothers. To avoid their fate, they hide anywhere they can, whether that be under a coffee cup or hairbrush, or beneath a car or house. Within a limited amount of time--usually ten or fifteen minutes--you must capture enough of them to complete a given area’s objectives.
There are, of course, complications. Kai is a bit of a wimp and must rely completely on the gun to do the work. When a given area starts, there will be large and small objects, with him capable of lifting only the latter. Likewise, doors and other objects block his access to later regions within the zone. It’s kind of like Katamari Damacy, only you’re not pushing a huge ball.
As an example, suppose Kai begins his crusade in a hallway with several locked doors. To his left and right, slightly ahead, creatures rest on the furnishings in plain sight. Once zapped, they charge the gun and other objects in the environment. Suddenly a fax machine that was idle before comes to life. After a few quick hits from the capture gun, it begins spewing Elebits. When Kai sucks these up, he gains the ability to lift heavier objects. Once he does, he finds still more targets resting underneath, enough to unlock a door and explore the next room.
That’s kind of how the whole game goes, whether you’re in a bedroom or a study, in the garage or even wandering the streets outside. There are several distinct environments, each rendered in breathtaking 3D so that you feel as if you’re truly there. Little touches lend the game much of its appeal, like a closet packed full of toys and shirts, or a laundry room with detergent piled along a slightly messy wall. The developers definitely needed to get this right, as much of the fun in Elebits comes from tearing things apart.
The best stages are arguably those where you are truly powerful. It’s fun to lift a pair of shoes and watch creatures scurry away as you scramble to catch them in your tractor beam, but lifting a car or a house is better. Because such power isn’t handed to you immediately, it feels truly rewarding when your gun’s strength permits such amazing feats. It would be a mistake to think that’s the whole of the game, though. To spice things up, the developers included Elebits that do damage if you try to capture them. There also are special criteria in some instances, like when you have to avoid making too much noise or breaking too many objects. They’re transparent attempts to add variety to the gameplay, but they work.
So does the control scheme, though it has its faults. For the most part you can do what you need to do. You can lift laundry crates and throw tiles across the room like a champion, lost in the flurry of activity until suddenly you want to zap an Elebit and can’t seem to hit it. Or you might try to open a door and for whatever reason it doesn’t work. The camera goes flying this way and that while you spend crucial seconds trying to recover. Maybe you’re carrying an object around because you’ll need it in another area, only you brush against a wall and it drops. I once accidentally dropped an object over the edge of a course and into the abyss because of such an awkward moment. I had to restart.
Still, you have to remember that what Elebits provides is one of the most truly convincing 3D atmospheres yet presented in a console game. Though the visuals are clearly inspired by animation and maybe 1950, they are endearing in their way and really suck you into the experience. If at times there are hiccups, they’re still an acceptable price to pay for the freedom you often enjoy. Just don’t expect to breeze through everything; several stages may take hours to conquer.
Even when you think you’re finished, you’re not. Many stages can be retried as you hunt for items you missed or a better ranking. The game also is augmented by a few nice touches like a custom map builder and a multi-player mode. All of this is designed to keep you playing long after the real adventure is over, and it’ll succeed if you’re mesmerized by the game’s charm and addictive qualities. Elebits is one of the Wii’s simplest pleasures in 2006 and an exciting promise of things to come. You’ll wish you’d played it sooner.
Staff review by Jason Venter (December 21, 2006)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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