Another day, another ‘vania’… Action,
platforming, exploration, dungeon crawling, RPG elements: quite a familiar piece of terminology by now that shall resonate well with both the more nostalgic audience – the same audience that won’t take longer than a minute to spot glaring similarities between this game and, say, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link – as well as newcomers who witnessed this genre’s revival in the recent years. In what is already a densely populated and formidably represented niche, then, how does Elliot Quest fare, face to face with its very roots and illustrious predecessors? Following reviews of the PC, PS4 and Switch editions, it is time for Cubed3 to cover the 3DS version.
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To cut a long story short, this doesn’t fare extraordinarily well. Sure, Ansimuz Games’ effort is charming in many ways and competent enough, although it fails to impress where it really matters. Way too brisk in its narrative, unable to even explain itself properly, Elliot Quest leaves the player frustratingly lost right from the start, wondering where to go and what to do. The world is indistinct and unfavourable, making the titular ascent from zero to hero rather unexciting.
The evil Satar cast a spell upon Elliot: for him to turn into a demon, while his vitality gets inescapably consumed. With no time to waste, the 8-bit-looking protagonist embarks on a mission to traverse the Urele Islands, through its five different locations and intricate, yet finely designed, dungeon structure, and take down the wizard and his minions, ultimately finding a cure for the curse.
With his trusty bow and a stock of bombs – ideal to spot secret paths and dig out hidden items – the aspiring paladin will get the chance to improve his experience level by collecting points to be spent on upgrading his strength, magic, speed, health, and accuracy attributes, at the player’s complete discretion… Too bad all the hard work is consistently at risk to go straight down the drain, should Elliot die between two save stones. The problem is: said checkpoints seem to be located way too far from each other, which – combined with Elliot Quest‘s often unforgiving difficulty – makes for some repeated moments of aggravation.
It’s a gameplay formula that proved to be divisive back in the NES age, and is just as polarising by today’s standards. What’s engrossing for those who prefer a conservative approach, memorisation and meticulous back-tracking, will inevitably disgruntle the more instinctive adventurers in search of a game with a faster pace and a lesser amount of trial and error. It’s unfortunately easy to anticipate how quick the long, clueless, and death-ridden walks in search of what to discover next, will wear out the patience of a large portion of platform aficionados.
That said, praise for a technical construct with little to no real flaws. Visuals and sound – while missing the chance to do anything beyond vanilla, and in spite of some inopportune frame drops – all pay an earnest homage to the retro classics, Elliot Quest takes inspiration from. Controls feel responsive and snappy, wrapping up an overall well-packaged outcome.