Elliot Quest is a side scrolling 2D action adventure with a low fidelity art style that adds a lot to enhance an already great game. There’s a good blend of action, puzzle solving, exploring and traversal. A lot of what the game does, others have done before it with a few exceptions such as a whirlwind attack that pulls in enemies and items that also lets you cross large gaps or cut through green vines.
You play as a boy named Elliot on his way to rescue Cara. Its a typical plot for a typical game. Every so often text will appear telling you about Cara or what she means to Elliot, but beyond that the story and plot are an afterthought.
The time was spent in making little traversal puzzles that feel engaging. Defeating a snail and using its shell to get to a higher place. Throwing the body of a stone spitting octopus into purple goo to travel across. Rolling a giant bomb off a cliff are just a few ways the game turns the typical into engaging.
Your primary weapon is a bow with short range arrows. Gravity affects your arrows and it turns the game into one of skill and finesse. There’s a nuance to timing, gravity and enemy location that more games should have. Shooting off a cliff to have gravity take your arrow down onto an enemy is satisfying. At some point you can unlock a charge shot that launches the arrow straight forward with no drop off. This charge shot results in a critical hit every time rather than a small fraction of the time.
Along the way you get a number of different items, skills and abilities. You gain a shield that you can use to block projectiles if you are standing still, a double jump feather, a shovel for digging, a lantern so you can see in caves and light other lanterns, a limited supply of bombs and much more. The only catch to the bombs is that they have to be purchased or found in a specific spot. So if you run out, you’ll be headed back into a dungeon to replenish your supply. Defeated enemies will drop hearts or magic pellets to restore health and mana.
While the game is a 2D side scroller for the most part, there is an overworld map with several locations some are hidden and you need to touch them before a bubble comes up indicating you can enter. There are a few towns, labyrinths and out of the way places to explore. In the labyrinths these are so big that you’ll get a map indicating which room you’re in. Its nice to have, because there’s a lot you can miss and a lot that you’ll need to come back for once you’ve got specific abilities. You’ll have to scour a lot of places several times over.
There are a couple of enemies on the overworld that you can run into. These enemies send you to one of a few random side scrolling battle zones. These zones are well thought out and can be little mazes by themselves. One has an old key for a house door, another has a bag. It adds exploration and intrigue to what could have been mundane.
There are often labyrinths on your way to labyrinths; the second of which is the one with the boss fight. The boss labyrinths have keys and giant keys needed to unlock boss doors. Guardians can be found in select locations across both types of labyrinths.
While you’re scouring dungeons, you can come across heart containers that increase the maximum amount of your health and green elixirs to increase your maximum mana. Its a mechanic used it plenty of other adventure games, even action games and it helps give a sense that you’re getting better. There are plenty of other things taken from its inspiration, but there’s always a twist to them in order to make them feel fresh. Stone shooting octopi are only vulnerable when they’re shooting at you. Slime will split into other slime.
Make sure to push up against every wall, because there are frequent hidden areas that become visible only when you’ve found them. These are nothing mandatory, but they do contain plenty of chests with gold inside and collectible crystals. The gold itself feels near useless. There are only a couple of things worth purchasing in the entire game. Other than necessities, there are a few consumable items like red potions for health, green potions for mana and a feather to return you to the last save point. You can only carry two consumables at a time and often, I’d just forget that I have them.
As you defeat enemies, you’ll earn experience and once you get enough of it, you will level up and earn a skill point. With these points you can assign them to one of five stats: strength, wisdom, agility, vitality and accuracy for an improved chance of critical hits. Each stat can have a level of five with each level unlocking new or improved abilities. Strength is to shoot arrows farther, but at the third level, you can unlock a charge shot. Wisdom says magic orbs might give double the mana, and at the second level, your mana regenerates, level four spells do more damage and at five spells cost half. Agility improves your shooting rate, level four lets you run faster and level five lets you evade projectiles. Vitality says hearts may give double health, the second level takes half damage 15% of the time, at the fourth health regenerates and the fifth lets you take half damage 30% of the time.
With all the great stuff that’s here, the only real issue I have with the game is that it can be cryptic. The townsfolk are no help. Some things are self explanatory, but others such as catching a draft as a whirlwind to launch yourself up took me a few hours to understand that’s what I needed to do. I was stuck looking and searching through every secret room looking for a double jump.
There’s often too much locked away from you at once. Since the game is open world, you can enter fifteen different areas, but only get so far in them before you need to head back. If you’re stumped, taking a look back through each labyrinth for something you’ve missed just takes too long. Is that a bad problem to have though? At least the leveling up and experience mechanic meant that every time I explored the same area, I was still being rewarded.
The only other downside that I can think of is there are no achievements or Steam overlay. Instead there’s great music and a charming art style. I’ll take the latter over the former.
Elliot Quest is a wonderful game that scratches every itch for intelligent gameplay. Its well worth the price of admission, even if its been done in other games, Elliot Quest does it on par with its forefathers and surpasses them.