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When you first pick up Elebits (Eledees in the UK), everything about it screams Pokemon rip-off – the Japanese anime graphics, the Omegas themselves (for Zero, read Picachu) and the on-screen layout. However, don't be too quick to judge – this is a seriously fun and addictive game that takes the best ideas from Pokemon and exploits them to produce something that will keep even the hardened cynics in the family occupied for hours on end.
Usually I spend quite a few hours playing a game before writing a review. The fact that it has been virtually impossible to prise Elebits away from the kids for long enough to get some serious game-play in reflects just how addictive they have found it. But more on that later.
The story is a new spin on a relatively well-known genre: you play as Kai, a boy who is trying to find a way back home to his folks after having (accidentally) been teleported to an unknown land with Zero, his Omega familiar, in a time machine disguised as a bus. With Zero's help you must navigate each new land and unlock Omegas, each with their own particular skill. There is a Fire Omega which can burn away wooden blockages, an Ice Omega, which can create an ice bridge over water, and so on.
Most of the puzzles in Elebits are visual, there's nothing to stop younger children from solving them.
Unlike Pokemon, the Omegas are only able to perform actions if they have been charged electrically. And to receive the watts required to activate their powers you must capture Elebits, which are hiding in and around the various inanimate objects you encounter in each land. Using the stylus to control Kai, you can use your Capture Gun to blast rocks and shake trees to tease out the Elebits and then capture them to convert them into watts.
You cannot complete a level without using the powers of the Omegas which you carry with you and in order to unlock the new Omegas you have to solve puzzles which require some lateral thinking. We introduced this game to our five year old (not yet in grade school) and although he needed some assistance reading the dialogue in the introductions, he soon grasped the idea and quickly advanced to the second level. After a couple of hours he had unlocked three new Omegas and was playing like a pro.
I'm quite cynical about games rated for E for Everyone (PEGI 3+) because we all know that nobody under the age of 5 is going to be able to read the on-screen instructions, let alone react quickly enough to get anything out of such a game. However, as most of the puzzles in Elebits are visual, there's nothing to stop younger children from solving them. Elebits also uses the screen space very well. The map on the upper screen is simple and effective: new (locked) Omegas are clearly marked, as are obstacles, rivers and doorways to new areas. Navigating around lands is a doddle with the stylus and the lower screen keeps HuD icons to a minimum. Whichever Omega has been activated follows you docilely around, although you can toggle between Kai and the Omega by tapping either character with the stylus or clicking the R/L buttons.
with numerous levels still to go, those inevitable summer car journeys with the family are suddenly looking a whole lot more appealing.
It's difficult to pinpoint exactly what makes this game so addictive because there's something positive to say about it in every area. Capturing Elebits provides an instant sense of reward and unlocking new Omegas is most satisfying – especially when other family members haven't yet figured out how to. The story is simple, yet appealing and has interest in its own right. The total package is lean and smart, taking and developing the best of similar games in the genre and ditching anything that doesn't work.
Perhaps most importantly, Elebits is a social game that really has brought the family together. Four out of five of us have been able to play, so it's a shame that there are only two user profiles. This complaint aside, there's been plenty of discussion on how to get through the levels and the children have enjoyed it so much they've begun to incorporate it inventively into their other play, even to the point of building Lego houses for Elebits! They will happily sit and watch each other playing and, on a recent weekend away, only took Elebits with them despite being die-hard DS fans. And with numerous levels still to go, those inevitable summer car journeys with the family are suddenly looking a whole lot more appealing.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: