The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


May 31, 2013

Joe Hadsall: 'Element4l' control change is great for gameplay

JOPLIN, Mo. — It's not every day that a video game kicks my hind quarters so completely and strongly that I change my strategies completely. But "Element4l" is doing exactly that.

When it comes to video games, I tend to be an explorer. I search every area pretty thoroughly for hidden bonuses, powerups and other secrets. My stepson Duncan goes crazy when he watches me play, because just when the destination and location of more action is clearly identified, I run away from it and into empty nooks and crannies, just in case I missed something.

That clash in personalities made playing the "Lego" video games pretty interesting.

But that's just me. I like to finish a level perfectly before going onto the next. Whether it's a first-person shooter, platformer or puzzler, I'm an overachiever. I want that perfect rating, because just in case there are multiple endings to a game, I want the best one possible.

Not so with "Element4l." This platformer by I-Illusions, released last weak through Steam, is one of those Othello games -- easy to learn, lifetime to master. It is brutally hard.

Yet it's so satisfying to play, that I'm not going to stop playing anytime soon.

The game is simple: You control a little smiley-faced character who represents four elements bound into one entity. At any time, you can change into fire, air, stone or ice, and each of those forms lets you traverse the environment in a different way.

It would be simple enough if the entity was controlled in a normal, W-A-S-D fashion (keyboard controls: W is up, A left, S down and D right). Instead, each of those keys trigger a change into one of the four elements.

That means going from left to right on a flat plane requires hitting the button for fire (which provides a little boost of momentum to the right) then changing to ice before hitting the ground, so that the element can skate along.

It requires some mental rewiring, because when the entity picks up speed, old habits kick in, which means you change into the wrong element at the worst time.

Though the mechanics are difficult, "Element4l" is packed with many rewards. Set in a "Limbo"-like land of shadows where the main, foreground platforms are all black, the game's world features a background of vibrant colors, detailed trees, waterfalls and more.

The game's obstacles are clever, with the right amount of familiarity and surprise. Things can get roller coaster-like quickly, and navigating those passages at high-speed is pretty satisfying.

"Element4l" is also filled with quotes, from supportive "Wheee!" to pop culture references that make me laugh out loud -- that doesn't happen very often. In one point in the game, the player controls the entity through a complicated series of jumps, then gets the message, "Just like the Goonies." A few seconds later, another message: "Some younger players may not get that reference. There's jumping in Harry Potter."

And the game's music is magical. I've never been this captivated by a video game soundtrack, and I've played "Little Big Planet." Composed by Mind Tree, the music is a mix of ambient electronica with dubstep elements. The glockenspiel and piano sounds provide an innocence, while electronic sounds and tempo changes jar the ear in one of the most interesting ways I've ever heard. (My purchase of the game came with a digital copy of the soundtrack, and I've been playing it like crazy.)

All in all, this is the best $10 I've ever spent on a video game. Even though it is making me angry and frustrated -- it's so hard that I can't overachieve like I always do! I'm passing every level with the bare minimum of achievement.

The game is a gorgeous environment that's ripe for exploration. There are bonus items to find and gold flags to earn, but I don't care. Maybe by the time I beat this game I'll finally be good enough to find some of those things.

Text Only
  • 071814_whiskeydicks.jpg Stretching out: Whiskey Dick's can do more in a bigger downtown location

    For the Whiskey Dick's owners, it isn't a matter of what's in a name but more of a place where everybody knows your name.

    July 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • 072514_LIVEWIREcar.jpg Livewire's new video debuts on Billboard (w/VIDEO)

    The song is currently on Billboard's Top 40 charts for Texas Music and Texas Regional Radio Report. It is the latest release since the band's first full-length album, "Livin'," which was released in 2012 with Way Out West Records.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Film-Hollywoods Ape M_Cast.jpg Benji Tunnell: Great CGI, solid writing make 'Apes' a near-perfect blockbuster

    A couple of weeks ago, we saw "Transformers 4," a big, computer-driven blockbuster film that was symbolic of all that is wrong with filmmaking today.

    July 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • polyphony.jpg Marta Churchwell: New Mexico marimba group returns for concert Sunday

    They're back. Polyphony Marimba, the Santa Fe, New Mexico, band that wowed the crowd with African music during a Downtown Joplin Third Thursday last summer, received such a response to that performance that they're coming back on Sunday.

    July 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • River Regatta 2013.jpg Dave Woods: Nevada regatta makes for a birthday escape

    In just three weeks, I'll spend my 50th birthday floating down the Colorado River with 35,000 of my closest friends.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo 1 Slideshow 1 Story

  • 071814_pickin trimmin.jpg New festival focuses on short independent films

    As Jack Truman saw his films play in festivals around the world, one lingering thought persisted: He wished that such festivals existed in his hometown area.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • 071614 Glory Days_72.jpg Glory Days Music to resume weekly in-store concerts

    The staff at Glory Days Music have been working their business as usual. Musicians demonstrate guitars, drums and other instruments. Music is sold; lessons are taught. But something has been missing.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • mug_joe-hadsall-112613.jpg Joe Hadsall: All the hidden secrets in "Weird Al's" "Word Crimes" video

    I sincerely believe the "Word Crimes" video will become the most important song in history, and the most mandatory-to-watch video in schools across the country.

    July 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • mug_joe-hadsall-112613.jpg Globe Phone Test: Concept is clever, but transitions tricky with Asus PadFone X

    It's kind of embarrassing to point this out, but "Candy Crush Saga" is one of the best ways to illustrate how well the Asus PadFone X, a smartphone and tablet combo really works.

    Anyone who has more than one device will understand this situation completely: Let's say a player fires up "Candy Crush" on his tablet computer and really digs the game. A lot. So much so that he downloads it to his smartphone.

    Only there's one problem: All the progress made on the tablet is stuck on the tablet. The smartphone has a completely separate path of progress, meaning the player has to play each level twice. This makes progress through the game twice as long. (This problem can be fixed by signing up for the game on Facebook, but no one really wants their Facebook friends to know they spend so much time crushin' candy.)

    The Asus PadFone X is the dream solution to this nightmare of a problem.

    Available exclusively from AT&T, the device is actually two devices. A standalone smartphone can be plugged into a tablet computer, meaning the owner can take his pick of how he wants to play the game, and all the progress he makes is saved on one device's hard drive.

    AT&T loaned us a device that we tested for more than two weeks -- didn't like having to send it back -- and we found a lot of its qualities and quirks.

    July 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Tantric tours in support of latest studio album

    "37 Channels," the latest album from Hugo Ferreira's band, features a lineup of guests including Hinder's Austin Winkler, Shooter Jennings, 3 Doors Down drummer Greg Upchurch, Uncle Kracker guitarist Kevin McCreery, Saving Abel guitarist Scott Bartlett and Leif Garrettt.

    July 11, 2014