The video game industry is rife with indie platformers, which strive (or, they should) to deliver a distinctive gameplay, among the similar styles most of them do. Independent developer I-Illusions bring Element4l to the table, a platformer just as singular as the title. In Element4l, players get to control the four elements: Air, Ice/water, Earth and Fire. As you can read, there are four elements featured and hence the naming, don't worry about there being all sorts of leet dialogues in Element4l.
You start as an Air bubble, in a snowy and unknown environment. There are no enemies, the only impediment being the mountains, if you touch surface, you burst. You can make the bubble go up, however it drains a portion of your Energy meter, which recharges with time. Air is in a self-imposed quest, seeking the missing elements. It does not take it the whole game though, as I thought at first. There are four tutorial levels, and by the end you now possess all the elements.
Unlike Air, the Earth element, represented by a rock boulder is used to quickly fall down, and keep moving. The Ice cube slips gently across circular surfaces, and just like Earth, it can safely touch any surface. Lastly, Fire serves as a propulsive, and is the only element who can essentially, move forward. Despite how useful Fire can be, it falls apart if it directly contacts the surface.
The real game starts once you can take advantage of each nature force and make your way through. Uneven terrains and slide-like ground help the Elements move forward, as you basically can't move. By switching from an Element to another, you trigger their reaction, and at the same time deplete your Energy. Say, if you're completely static in a straight floor, the only possible way to advance further is to switch to Fire, and before hitting ground, switch back to Ice or Earth, for a safe landing. As easy as it all may sound, Element4l is one of the most challenging platformers I have ever played, and I found myself on the verge of a rage quit, frustrated and with my gamer pride hurt. More often than not I was tempted to turn on the "This Is Too Hard For Me" option, and get a faster recharge Energy meter and more frequent checkpoints, but I endured and kept trying the traditional, hard way.
You'll rely on inclined rock formations and timed Air jumps, while avoiding hazardous lava walls or even radioactive pits. The gameplay is rich, and the way some elements interact with the environment such as the Ice melting down as a result of a fire encounter and Fire bouncing off lava walls have you using all Elements and getting the most out of what Element4l has to offer. At the end of a stage, you're shown how many times you screwed up and therefore how many checkpoints you were taken back to, along with the time it took you to finish, and are then awarded a Bronze, Silver or Gold flag. Most of the time I got Bronze.
To further extend the game time, there is also a Race mode, more colloquially known as speedruns. In the Option menu, you can decide if to be shown a ghost of your previous try at the level you wish to speedrun. Immortalize your record score in the Leaderboards, or fail miserably trying. The odd part is that you can only view the Top score, not every speedrun recorded by worldwide players, but considering Race mode and competitiveness isn't the most attractive factor of Element4l, it's not that big of a deal.
Graphics are, in their own way, peculiar. You're running around through shadowed silhouettes of Mountains and Caves, with a blurry effect that may actually turn people down from playing much time in one sitting. The visuals however feel very own to Element4l, and the eccentric atmosphere that the game creates. Opposite to the art style, the background music and main theme articulate what Element4l is. Eccentric and surrounding soundtracks accompany the four elements on their unguided inquiry.
Once you finish the game, there is an attempt of a replay mechanic which lets you enable a slow motion effect, which is supposed to aid you time your moves more efficiently, but by the time you start a new game, you realize you're overwhelmingly better and you end up finishing Element4l within a two hours time lapse. It's a more sensible idea to aim for Gold awards the second time around, since you have more possibilities then anyway.
Element4l is not a groundbreaking indie title, although manages to deliver a short, enjoyable single player platformer game with a neat soundtrack and old fashioned difficulty. You can pick it up for $10 and spend your evening manipulating the elements at will in Element4l, a different but not necessarily fine approach to a Jump and Run platformer.