Review: Elli (Switch)

elli boxBandanaKid’s Elli ($19.99) is a fun, family-friendly game that focuses on precision platforming and simple to moderate puzzle solving over the standard combat-focused action that’s a staple of the genre. This ends up being a good thing for those looking for something a bit different than the usual mascot-themed, enemy-packed games where variations on the butt-bounce and besting big, bad bosses are core gameplay elements. On the other hand, those looking for a deep and direct comparison to certain AAA or other indie games of this type may find what’s here a bit lacking in a few areas.

For example, while the lovely, mostly isometric visuals are lovely to admire, there’s enough of a Breath of the Wild vibe here to prod one into thinking it’s some sort of spin-off gaiden featuring some lesser known NPC’s. Granted there’s a plot here about Elli, a 600-year young elf trying to celebrate her birthday only to have those Crystals of Time she’s guardian of swiped by the not so friendly Ghasti, whereupon it’s off to the races to retrieve them. That’s pretty much all you need to know and the game doesn’t throw any major world-building at you in an attempt to try and make you think it’s any deeper than that.

That by the way, turns out to be a mostly good thing, as the gameplay’s simpler focus is on getting from Point A to Point B and dealing with assorted obstacles just works well without the baggage of perusing copious amounts of whys and hows via lengthy text or cut scenes. On the other hand, between the mostly silent NPCs and Elli’s own somewhat quiet approach, the game at times feels a bit empty outside her general motivation to catch that nasty Ghasti.

Gameplay is fairly straightforward, but a locked down camera means jumping and sticking a proper landing is a bit tricky in situations where falling platforms mean you need perfect timing and you end up missing a beat until you nail that leap of faith. Jumping can feel a tad floaty and you’ll go sailing off some platforms or over the edge of a cliff if you get too panicky. Fortunately, checkpoints are placed in a few spots per area, so the frustration factor is low here unless you’re on a map where you have to pull off a flawless series of jumps and puzzle bits before an auto save. There are also some VERY tightly timed run and jump sections that will likely fluster those with slower reflexes because failure means trying over and over again until you get it right.

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That said, the game does look and sound great overall as that trailer and screenshots above suggest. I do wonder if the developer planned to do something a bit deeper, as there are a load of cool outfits Elli can purchase using crystals she finds that only change her appearance from what I can tell. It would have been interesting to see her gain new skills based on what she wears, but the game isn’t one that’s focused on more than the skills she can use from the start. Granted, combat is not the focus here at all and the game certainly picks up from its somewhat slow start to offer quite a bit of puzzle-centric goodness that’s quite well done. My biggest gripe is there’s only a single save file, so if you perhaps wanted to play this as a shared game with a family member, you’ll have to make do with passing that Switch around or replaying from the beginning.

So, who’s this game for, you may ask? I’d say players young to old who aren’t expecting anything more than a solid, well made and light adventure that really deserves an audience who appreciates it for its non-violent approach to things. I’d love to see a followup with a more open world like in Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles (a game I ran out and bought right after watching its trailer – yeah, it’s on my long backlog list, so it’ll get a review at some point), but I guess we’ll see what the future brings.

Score: C+ (75%)

-GW

Review code courtesy of the developer

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