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Elebits

Score: 85%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Konami
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Action/ Puzzle

Graphics & Sound:

Elebits holds the distinction of being one of the first Wii titles that could realistically only be done on the Wii. Its not a port of an existing game with Wii-mote functions grafted on nor is it a Wii-mote enabled version of an existing game type. The result is a fun, though sometimes frustrating game.

Elebits’ biggest mistake is in its visuals. The story is told through gorgeously illustrated stills that tell the story of Elebits and how a young boy wished them away one day. The downside is that this style doesn’t carry over into the game. Obviously, the Wii is never going to produce visuals like the other two consoles; however, if the DS has shown anything, it is that art style goes a long, long way regardless of hardware. In the end, Elebits is just an okay looking game.

Levels range in size from small rooms to neighborhood blocks. The neat part is that just about everything in the environment can be picked up, spun around and tossed across the room. The downside is that in order to allow this to happen at a constant framerate, the texture work is kind of flat and objects are modeled using mostly simple shapes. It’s not a bad thing at all, but then you remember the beautiful artwork and just wonder, "What if…?"

Sound is something that is just there for the atmosphere. There isn’t much going on in the way of music and most of the sounds you hear are of chairs, tables, boxes and everything that isn’t nailed down being tossed around the room. There’s also the occasional bland narration and noises from the Elebits, but that’s about it.


Gameplay:

Whenever anything mechanical stopped working, my grandfather would usually blame gremlins. Not the “Don’t get ‘em wet” sort, but little monstrosities that love to break stuff. Elebits features its own little creatures, known as Elebits; but instead of breaking things they are the source of electricity in the world. But, they’re just as problematic. Elebits aren’t the most cooperative of creatures, leaving it as your job to trap them and put them to work.

At first glance, it is easy to write Elebits off as a FPS. The scheme and presentation both look a whole lot like a FPS, though the gameplay is a little tamer. You navigate levels and aim at things, but it is not super violent or overly complicated. Think of it as the Fisher-Price FPS – simple, sturdy and fun.

Okay, let me restate that: the concept isn’t overly complicated, but some gameplay decisions and mechanical issues introduce complications that could either cause frustration or make Elebits one of the more strategically deep games you’ve every played.

Your goal is to flush Elebits from their hiding places and collect a specific wattage score before time runs out. You begin each level with a low-powered capture gun and all electric devices turned off. As you capture Elebits, objects – which include hair dryers, lamps and even a toilet – power up. Turning these objects on releases Elebits that, when captured, power up your capture gun. As your gun levels, you’ll be able to pick up bigger objects, revealing more Elebits.

Areas are built with total destruction in mind. Nearly every object in the level can be picked up, turned on its side or thrown around the room. Elebits are hidden everywhere, which is where some of the strategy comes into play. Anyone can tear through a room with reckless abandon. The catch is that some areas have a limit to how much damage you can do. Break too many things and its game over. On top of this, you are going against the clock, making Elebits a game of quick decision making. On one hand, this adds a bit of depth and strategy. On the other, it places limits on your fun. At times, it is like playing basketball with no backboard on the goal; you can do it, but it is tricky.

Another thing to keep in mind as you tear through rooms is keeping areas accessible. You can’t jump, so while knocking down a bookcase looks like great fun, you could end up blocking your path. You can always move objects, but that takes time and there are only so many places you can put objects.

Completing levels in Story mode unlocks them for Time Attack mode as well as giving you the set pieces for use in your own created levels. That’s right – Elebits features a level creation tool that lets you try your hand at level design. The plan is to eventually allow players to share these levels on Wii Connect 24. A multiplayer option is also available with up to four players racing to capture the most Elebits.


Difficulty:

As far as the pick-up and play nature of Elebits goes, it doesn’t take too long to figure out what to do. A lengthy tutorial is available, which is worth checking out since it gets you into the mindset of manipulating objects in 3D space.

Level pacing is set up to incorporate the game’s subtle strategic elements. When levels start, you are limited to the number of objects you can manipulate. Figuring out what objects you can currently pick up, and gaining the ability to pick them up, is one of the more satisfying elements in the game. Most of the really complicated elements, namely the destruction limits, don’t pop up until mid-way through the game, but can still cause frustration if you’re not the patient type.


Game Mechanics:

Control is where Elebits really shines. Both the Wii-mote and Nunchuck attachment are required and both work much like any other Wii FPS – at least when it comes to the basics. Pointing with the Wii-mote moves the targeting cursor around while the analog stick on the Nunchuck is used to move around. Pressing the (A) or (B) buttons on the Wii-mote shoots while the (C) and (Z) buttons on the Nunchuck cause you to stand on your toes or crouch (both of which are used when searching for Elebits – remember, they can be anywhere). The overall setup doesn’t take long to learn and feels good.

However, this is just the basics. Elebits requires you to move objects in 3D space, meaning that not only can you move objects up, down, left and right, but also forward and backwards. This is handled by pushing the Wii-mote forward and backwards, and comes into use more than you would expect. Moving some objects requires that you push and pull, similar to how you would interact with them in real life.

Moving objects in all directions is the biggest adjustment you’ll face. Once you do, you’ll find yourself picking up objects, tossing them and catching them in mid-air. The physics engine is the real star here. If you’re the type that just likes to play around with game mechanics, you’ll have lots of fun.

Elebits has the same appeal as Katamari Damacy; it isn’t the most visually appealing of games, nor is it overly complicated. It is just a fun game that really takes advantage of the Wii in new ways. Is it something you’ll still be playing in two years? Probably not (unless the level building community really flourishes). However, it may be one that is referred to and remembered as one of the Wii’s first truly unique titles.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Sony PlayStation Portable Star Wars: Lethal Alliance Sony PlayStation 3 Ridge Racer 7

 
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