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Elementals: The Magic Key

Score: 65%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Playrix Entertainment
Developer: Playrix Entertainment
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure/ Puzzle/ Turn-Based Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

Elementals: The Magic Key is an odd blend of several genres in an attempt to make a fairly unique experience. Unfortunately, it never feels like enough effort went into any of the game's aspects to make any one part of it really compelling.

The game's art style is interesting as it feels like a Saturday morning cartoon. In fact, everything from the game's mythos to its character design feels much more like a licensed title instead of a new IP. While everything is big and filled with bright colors, all of the sets and characters feel pretty static as well (even if there is the occasional creature off to one side that blinks or the occasional sparkling particle effect). What results are scenes that are jam-packed full of magical paraphernalia, but ultimately uninteresting in the long run.

Music is about on par with the graphics. While there is a nice selection of background tunes to keep your ears busy and in the game, there definitely isn't anything here that will stick with you. Then again, this is a casual game, so the necessity to hear music or voiceovers would actually be detrimental since that would mean you couldn't play the game while talking on the phone or supposedly working at your office. In the end, I found the experience pretty much the same with the sound off.


As I mentioned before, Elementals: The Magic Key attempts to blend a couple of play styles making the game part adventure, part hidden object and part strategy board game. For the most part, you will travel from location to location looking for objects hidden in the scenes to make magical potions, open gates, activate objects or tons of other events that will progress the game's story. Occasionally, you will have to solve some basic puzzles in order to unlock new passageways or hidden compartments, but these tasks are far less frequent than the hidden object events.

The last part of this triple threat is the board game. You are occasionally attacked by creatures from the game. Instead of a normal battle though, you are forced into a simple strategy game where you try and get rid of your opponent's elemental tokens before they get rid of yours. The board is divided down the middle and both players are constrained to their side of the board. Each turn consists of moving an elemental and attacking an opponent. There seems to be a measure of strategy here, but not a whole lot. There are no movement constraints on your characters (save keeping them on your side of the field), so you can easily move any of your pieces from the farthest reaches of the board to within firing range without any issue. A little strategy comes in trying to make your pieces more powerful (which occurs when you line three of them up to form a bigger elemental). These more powerful creatures can take more damage, which means they have a few more turns to deal out attacks before they can be taken out. In the end, these board games feel like little distractions that don't really make sense in the grand scheme of things.

Like I said above, while Elementals: The Magic Key is an interesting attempt to blend the three gameplay types together, in the end, none of them feel deep enough to be really enjoyable. The hidden object aspect either has really simple items to find, or frustratingly hard pieces of one object to collect. The game's puzzle solving elements aren't too frequent and are usually very simple, while the board game just doesn't seem to fit.


Elementals: The Magic Key isn't a hard game, and seeing as it is designed for the casual market, I guess that's okay, but even as the story progresses, there isn't really any added challenge. The only time I found any real difficulty in The Magic Key was during some of the hidden object tasks... especially the ones that asked me to find a dozen of something (like broken mirrors or stones). As you would expect, the first few are easy, but there are always those last couple that are hard to find. More times than not, the last pieces of whatever that I needed to click on were nothing more than a vague outline of the object in a bigger section of the background picture of the exact same color, something that always felt a bit cheap and pointless in my mind.

Game Mechanics:

Elementals: The Magic Key's desire to do too many things at once goes against the grain of most casual games. As a rule ... not a formal one mind you, but one that seems to cause a lot of success in this market, it is best to find one mechanic, one aspect of gaming and follow through with that. That seems to be the case at least with casual games, games geared towards the more hardcore consumer have slightly different rules for success. Since The Magic Key doesn't do that, the gameplay experience in the different areas it dabbles in end up feeling quite shallow and hard to get into.

If Elementals was designed to be nothing but a hidden object game, then the items you need to look for or their cheap hiding places wouldn't be as much of an issue because more development time could have gone into figuring out exactly the right places to put things. If it was designed to focus more on the problem solving/adventure aspects of the game, then Elementals would have better puzzles to work through, or at least have better use of your supposed inventory (which is little more than an area letting you know which hidden objects from that screen you need to find). Even the board game aspect of The Magic Key has a lot of potential, but the very lax rule set makes it an unnecessary distraction. To make matters worse, there are different types of casual gamers - some enjoy board games, some enjoy hidden object and some enjoy the few adventure-styled casual games that are out there, but by trying to combine all three, you will probably find yourself hard pressed to find a casual gamer who is willing to dabble in all three at once.

I don't mean to be harsh, the game really does have a lot of potential, and there are aspects that are amusing, but the overall package just doesn't seem to be worth the price. Then again, you might find the gameplay variety intriguing. If so, then give the demo a download and give it a try.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

Minimum System Requirements:

OS: Windows XP, Vista or 7; CPU: 800 MHz; RAM: 512MB; DirectX: 9.0 or higher; Video: 64MB

Test System:

Windows Vista, 2 GHz AMD Phenom 9500 Quad-Core Processor, 8GB RAM, Realtek High Definition Audio On-Board Sound, NVIDIA GeForce 8300

Related Links:

Nintendo Wii James Cameron's Avatar: The Game Microsoft Xbox 360 James Cameron's Avatar: The Game

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