Electronic Theatre In-depth Review: 4 Elements

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            With the advent of the Nintendo 3DS, you’d be forgiven for thinking that developers would be abandoning the original Nintendo DS format. However, with an audience in excess of one hundred million, developers and publishers won’t be quite as quick to give-up on the console as the core audience, hence this latest Nintendo DS release from Mastertronic, 4 Elements. Launched just weeks prior to Nintendo’s new console, its budget price-tag and familiar Match-3 gameplay will surely earn it some fans within the huge Nintendo DS market.

            As stated above, 4 Elements is yet another Match-3 game joining the Nintendo Ds line-up, a genre which is perhaps the most widely populated of all. That hasn’t proven an issue thus far however, and is unlikely to stop 4 Elements from gaining an audience. Offering a story in which an ancient kingdom is in trouble, players must gather the magic of the four elements by unlocking the four ancient books of magic. AnElectronic Theatre Image adorable little fairy will be your aide in this perilous journey as you encounter elementals, dragons, knights, and various magic creatures. Of course, the plot is largely superfluous to the game.

            For a Match-3 Puzzle game, 4 Elements begins in a bizarre fashion, tasking the player with a simplified Hidden Object puzzle. There are no penalties here, it’s simply another string to 4 Elements’ bow, but these Hidden Object puzzles join a few Spot-the-Difference challenges as added bonus levels. Once the game begins properly, players will find that 4 Elements is actually a very unusual Match-3 game, taking the traditional formula and making something a bit different of it.

            Instead of being charge with switching the placement of objects on the screen to create matches, players can only use the objects in the position they stand. Chains won’t automatically disappear; instead the player must select which chains to remove. A liquid tunnel exists on the screen, and the idea is for the player to create a path from the removed objects to a set destination. The player can use the D-Pad to move around the level and connect sets of three or more at any point, meaning that there is never an occasion when a level is impassable. On those occasions where finding a suitable chain proves difficult however, the player has a number of power-ups available to aid them.

            Four power-ups are accessible simply by touching their icon, ranging from the Spade, which removes a single object, to the Reshuffle, which rearranges every single object on the board. Removing more than five or more objects in one go creates an explosion, taking surrounding objects with it, and the Bomb power-up offers the same bonus without the need to create a chain first. The final power-up, Swap, allows you to rearrange any to objects on the board to either create a local chain, or build for a more significant chain elsewhere.

            As interesting as 4 Elements’ re-imagining of the traditional Match-3 gameplay is, is visual quality is most certainly not up to the same standard. Rough sketch-like imagery telling the story and very basic presentation in-game, 4 Elements is one of the most boringly presented games on the Nintendo DS console. Of course, as a simple Puzzle game 4 Elements doesn’t have to be the best looking game around, but when competing against titles such as Bejeweled, it wouldn’t have hurt to have spruced things up a little.

            While 4 Elements isn’t exactly a groundbreaking game, it’s a refreshing tale on the Match-3 puzzling. Mastertronic is a publishing label that is quickly becoming known for picking-up existing properties that are respectable in their field and offering them to new markets, and 4 Elements doesn’t buck this trend one bit. Having already found success on PC, you’d be hard pressed to suggest the same won’t be achieved with this budget-priced Nintendo DS release.

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