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Elemix! (Game Boy Advance) artwork

Elemix! (Game Boy Advance) review


"Elemix! is a Japanese import action RPG that some might compare to a 2D Zelda game. It has a colourful graphics style slightly reminiscent of a GBA Zelda, a top-down viewpoint, and a health indicator in the form of hearts on the top left of the screen. But the one area Elemix! excels in is its remarkably simple pick-up-and-play approach, and this is despite the language barrier. The game is a series of nine short self-contained stages. There isn't an overworld ..."



Elemix! is a Japanese import action RPG that some might compare to a 2D Zelda game. It has a colourful graphics style slightly reminiscent of a GBA Zelda, a top-down viewpoint, and a health indicator in the form of hearts on the top left of the screen. But the one area Elemix! excels in is its remarkably simple pick-up-and-play approach, and this is despite the language barrier. The game is a series of nine short self-contained stages. There isn't an overworld - you beat the current stage, you move onto the next one - there is no downtime in towns, and you don't need to speak with NPCs to seek directions or clues on what to do next. You just go from point A to point B and obliterate everything in between.

Instead of wielding swords or throwing boomerangs, Prince Skip is armed with the magic of three elements: fire, ice, and earth. The bad news is, only one element can be active at any one time. If I could read Japanese, I might have been able to tell you why that's the case. Regardless, one of the face buttons cycles between the three, with the other letting him cast the projectile like a badass. Like rock-paper-scissors, each is weak to another - fire beats earth, earth beats ice, and ice beats fire - and this is where the good news comes in for our youthful protagonist, as every enemy conveniently falls under one of these elemental categories. Use the right element against the right type of foe, and you've mastered the basics of the game. Penguins and blue knights will fall easily to earth magic, while trees are vulnerable to fire. Standard.

The three projectiles also have different properties. Fireballs can be pumped out at a rapid rate, and ice shards, though weaker than the other two, have the chance to temporarily freeze a target. Their freezing trait is also the only way to cross water or lava expanses. Earth projectiles come in the form of boulders, which bounce off walls. From time to time, they can move indestructible boxes and barrels, useful for solving puzzles or creating cover against enemies' attacks, though such instances are really rare. It's a bit of a shame as it feels potential is wasted to make for a slightly deeper game. The first proper puzzle comes late in the fifth stage, and even then it's just your typical move-these-boxes-onto-those-pressure-pads.

Though all of the dialogue and tutorials are in Japanese, it doesn't take a genius to figure everything out. It's so straightforward that the starting elements at your disposal are the only weapons you'll ever need to beat the entire campaign. There's no lightning, no water, no holy or dark - it's just those three. You can upgrade each of them up to Level 3 by collecting pink orbs on the ground where slain enemies used to lay. At the highest level, using ice unleashes several homing projectiles, while fire has a far bigger radius of attack - but it's easy to max out all three elements within ten minutes of playing time providing you stay alive. To counter this, losing one of your three lives resets the level of your equipped element, and losing all of them sends you back to the beginning of the stage. Of course, this poses a slight problem during the later stages, when enemies are tougher to take down and far less forgiving. Carelessness will see you overwhelmed by the swarms of foes if you have to make do with feeble Level 1 elements, and moments like these are quite a chore as you have to take care with each step until you are strong enough again to more comfortably fend for yourself.

Aside from pink orbs, dead foes can also - rarely - drop hearts and scrolls. Hearts replenish your health, though unlike Zelda, you won't be able to upgrade past the initial five hearts you begin with. Using scrolls, on the other hand, summons a large creature dependent on which element you've equipped. These perform a kick-ass attack that deals major elemental damage to everything on the screen. Funnily enough, two of them look like familiar Pokémon. The fire elemental bird coolly throws down a rain of fire as it flies across the screen, but it's a phoenix whose physiology is suspiciously similar to that of Moltres. And if the developer argues "but our bird has grey feathers and its tail is on fire!", then the hailstorm-rising ice summon is blatantly just a legless and bigger version of water Pokémon Vaporeon.


The earth one, a brown elephant with a tortoise shell who likes to stomp the ground to produce earthquakes, is the only creature to have some semblance of originality. Elemix! had a great opportunity to show a bit of imagination, but like the rest of the game, it simply fails to stand out.

As it is, Elemix! is so bog-standard: switch elements to target a monster's weakness; dodge attacks; use a summon if things get too hairy. At least with Zelda, you pick up new weapons and utilise them in interesting ways as you progress through the game, and at least the combat is mixed with plenty of decent puzzles. You can count the number of puzzles Elemix! has with one hand. It's clear with the way Elemix! is structured that it's meant to encourage repeated playthroughs and speed runs, but if the core mechanics and the stages make one time through a slog to finish, what incentive do I have to improve my grade and times? There certainly aren't any unlockables after earning the hard mode. The last thing that could've elevated the game higher than a by-the-numbers product is its story, but yeah, it's all in a foreign tongue. Based on the merciful brevity of the conversations, though, there probably isn't much meat to it other than some random excuse to kill stuff.

Rating: 5/10

Ben's avatar
Community review by Ben (January 08, 2011)

Ben used to freelance for HonestGamers. Now he spends his spare time dying repeatedly on Spelunky.

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