4 Elements HD Review (PSN)

Game Review: 4 Elements HD Review (PSN)
Release: August 2011
Genre: Puzzle
Developer: Boolat Games
Available Platforms: PC, iPad, PS3
Players: 1
MSRP: $10
ESRB Rating: E
Puzzle games are a dime a dozen in this day and age, and come in all shapes and sizes. To see that developers Boolat Games were able to take a staple of the genre like connect-three, and spin it into something compelling and addictive, shows that they have the potential to blossom into great developers. Although the game is presented with a lackluster, generic fantasy motif shows that they’ve still got a ways to go.
4 Elements HD is a puzzle game ported over to PSN from iOS devices (there’s also a one-hour free version online). In it, you’re working against time to get flowing liquid from one end of the map to the other, clearing the path by connecting three matching stones. Layered blocks underneath the stones, boulders, and ice blocks all get in the way of your progress, and the fact that you’re on a time table adds pressure to keep the flow of liquid moving. To help with these obstacles, you gain four different power-ups that can be charged by clearing specifically colored stones. Ranging from a bomb, a shovel, or even randomizing every stone on the board, each power-up has their own set of pros and cons, and can be extremely useful in tight situations.
Outside of the core game, there is an upgrade system where you renovate your dilapidated kingdom, although the truth is there’s no real benefit to doing this in-game. It’s purely cosmetic. and comes off as very flash game-ish. There’s also four indexes that you can search through to read up on the game’s loosely-fabricated fiction. Again, it’s a feature, but one that adds nothing to game play, so in the end it’s fairly pointless. While there may be little to do outside of the main game, in no way does this take away from the game itself. The connect three mechanic is fun and engrossing.
4 Elements is at it’s best when you’re in the groove, and every thing’s lining up just right. As with most puzzle games, you develop tunnel vision. It’s that the game is so good at rewarding that level of play that makes it so compulsive and engaging. Once you start playing, you’re guaranteed to be lost in it for at least a good forty minutes to an hour. Also, working knowledge of the various power-ups, and the ability to hang on to them and use them at just the right moment is an incredibly rewarding element to the game.
The counter point to all of that puzzle-y goodness is easily the titles presentation. The art style is boring and generic in every way possible. Predictable fantasy characters designed as boilerplate as possible, soft pastels… it looks like a bargain bin paint-by-numbers kit in motion (and usually not even that- most cut scenes, sub-menus, and character screens are static images). As uniformly uninteresting as the game’s visuals can be, the same goes for the paper-thin story draped over it. Story in puzzle games should only exist to elaborate on game play, and encourage further play. This game’s tale does neither. Lastly, the fact that upgrading your castle does absolutely nothing to gameplay seems like a missed opportunity. Every change you make should offer some kind of bonus in-game (faster flowing liquid, etc). Here, all you’re doing is making a drawing look prettier.
If you can look past it’s cosmetically stale traits, the game contained within 4 Elements HD makes for a good time. However, seeing as the retail price is ten dollars, you may want to just play it on your Mac, PC, or iPad, and save yourself a couple bucks. But, if those avenues aren’t an option for you, and you’re absolutely desperate for a new puzzle title to play on your PS3, you could make far worse choices than this enjoyable distraction.
  • Solid, addictive match-three game play.
  • Generic visual presentation.
  • Steep asking price.
7 out of 10

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