On Elli’s 600th birthday, the mysterious Ghasti steals the time crystals, leaving the world to end when midnight arrives. It’s your job as Elli to recover all the crystals before tomorrow becomes the end of history. A simple story can always fit a peaceful adventure, but a simple challenge will not always fly.
Is Elli the puzzle platformer you are looking for on Switch or is this destination not worth traveling to? After fully completing the game, I sadly have the answer you are not hoping for.
An Uncomplicated Enigma
Elli was purposely designed to be accessible to both adults and children, but this can be a major flaw for a large portion of players. If you are looking for any sort of challenge, this may not be the place to look. Puzzles are lacking in a broad scale of difficulty, but more importantly, they lack variety.
Every enigma follows a very basic formula of pushing crates from one position to the next with some minor platforming along the way. There are some noteworthy ideas here, but nothing that is experimented with to its full potential. Every so often a new gimmick or two will be introduced such as teleportation, but its nothing that can keep you invested. Its lack of variety does not make it bad by all means though.
My first two hours with Elli were extremely pleasant. Exploring these peaceful and colorful atmospheres was relaxing, but after a while, it begins to feel as if you are going through the same puzzles over and over again, with a different color. Once you have played the first hour you pretty much played what the entire game has to offer. It’s enjoyable to play in short doses, not long extensive play sessions.
One thing I do have to compliment the developers on is the fact that they have created one of the Switch’s most accessible ‘pick up and play’ games. The autosaving and overall progression structure here works perfectly on Switch for handheld and docked mode. This is one feature of the game that the developers absolutely nailed.
Elli controls decently for the most part. Running and jumping while clicking commands here and there is not the main problem when controlling the title character; a locked camera is what drags the game down tremendously.
Depth perception can be a massive issue at times. The most crucial aspect of platformers can be Elli’s weakest point. There are certain areas where the game has difficulty spikes for the wrong reasons. The locked overhead camera is the only guilty party- for the majority that is.
Elli could have perhaps received a boost in optimization on Nintendo’s hybrid. While it looks and plays great while docked, handheld mode can be a crisis at times. Button inputs not fully working, constant frame-rate drops, and textures improperly loading were three major reoccurring issues I found myself encountering.
A Great Atmosphere Shrouded With a Weak Cast
A Hat in Time, Snake Pass, Yooka-Laylee. The first thing that probably came to your mind besides the title characters was the atmospheres they are in. The atmosphere you roam can impact an entire experience; especially for a platformer.
Elli does a great job with its vastly different atmospheres, but it never attempts to do anything truly special. Every ‘world’ is immersive and distinctive from each other, but there are no groundbreaking ideas present. The sky’s not the limit in a fantasy setting, but Elli never tries to break the limit. That’s not always a deficient aspect to a game, however, every game does not require unique ideas to make it better.
Atmospheres look appealing for the most part, but once again optimization should have been a higher focus here for the developer. Anti-aliasing can often make the game look odd in some places- this problem is most distracting in handheld mode. While the atmospheres are impressive, I can not say the same for its inhabitants.
Character design is by far my biggest gripe with Elli. Besides the main playable character, a lot of the occupants of this world feel almost out of place. Many of the same NPCs are used throughout the adventure. It almost makes this world seem far smaller then what it actually is.
Skip To The Destination?
While filled with unique ideas, Elli falls flat when it comes to providing challenge and diversity for its core gameplay that matters most. Developer Bandana Kid has built a foundation for Elli, but nothing quite stands on that structure. Uninspired and repetitive puzzle design lead me wishing that the destination would just arrive sooner on this six-hour journey.
Although it certainly not a substandard game, it is far from earning the title of being great and it’s $19.99 price tag will certainly push customers away. Despite its interesting ideas, Elli falls victim to the current problems of modern 3D platformers and puzzle games. With a few new coats of paint, I’m sure developer Bandana Kid could make something great in the future.
In the meantime, if you want to take a look at Elli for yourself, you can get the game on the Nintendo Store here.