Reviewed: January 16, 2007
Released: December 12, 2006
Leave it to Konami to deliver one of the most stunning titles for the launch of the Nintendo Wii…or at least a few weeks after the launch. Elebits really stole the show at last year’s E3, at least as far as Nintendo fans and Wii-fanatics were concerned. Mixing charming graphics and state-of-the-art physics, now your pre-teens can get a taste of what Half-Life gamers have been experiencing.
The premise is simple. Elebits are small (almost cuddly) creatures that generate their own electrical current. One day a lightning storm strikes and the Elebits get all weird and go into hiding…in your appliances and other electrical gadgets. Using your dad’s trusty Capture Gun you now get to go on an electrifying scavenger hunt of sorts. Capture these cute creatures and use them to power-up other items so you can capture more. It’s part puzzle, part action, part adventure, and totally fun.
The first thing you should know is that Elebits probably makes the best use of the Wii controller of any third-party developed game and probably most of Nintendo’s first-party efforts. The tutorial is quick to teach you the intuitive control scheme that will have you coming back for more and more. Elebits is totally addicting and great fun.
Apparently, most of the budget went into gameplay because the presentation for Elebits is extremely lacking, even by Wii standards. We get a bunch of static story screens and some cheesy voice acting that might send some skeptical gamers running for the next title on the shelf. Don’t do it!
Using both the remote and nunchuk you will aim at the screen and press the A or B button to fire a capture beam that can manipulate items and capture Elebits. The game almost plays out like an FPS with the analog stick used for strafing and the remote used for aiming. C and Z buttons stand and crouch, which is more a function of exploration than trying to dodge anything.
You’ll attach your beam to objects and shake and flip them around. Almost everything in the world of Elebits can be manipulated in some fashion and almost all of them release a colorful assortment of Elebits you can use to build up that wattage meter. You’ll need this wattage to power all sorts of everyday devices like lights, ceiling fans, microwaves, and even remote control cars. Turning on these devices usually leads to you accessing more powerful Elebits which in turn charges your gun allowing you to access bigger items like a real car and even a house.
My only complaint with Elebits would be the level timer. I hate timers, especially on games that reward you with creative thinking and exploration. While the time limit is usually quite generous, I still hate the clock ticking away in the corner of the screen and would have enjoyed a mode with no limits.
Elebits wouldn’t work if it weren’t for the outstanding physics engine in place that makes everything move and react just like it would in real life. You’ll come away from this game thinking an anti-grav gun might just exist somewhere…probably in a bunker at Area 51. But even though items can be turned and stacked, when you throw some items, especially the heavier ones, there is a degree of floatiness to them. It keeps things from getting too destructive or violent, which should please parents.
There are 30 levels or areas ranging in size and complexity with time limits ranging from 5-20 minutes. You’ll explore indoor locations as well as outdoors, always in search of anything you can latch onto and shake around in your attempt to find every last Elebit who has gone into hiding. You can only move on to the next level when you have acquired the necessary number of Elebits and powered your gun sufficiently.
Clever side challenges start to appear as you explore deeper into the game. Sometimes you are not allowed to break a certain object, and other times you have to watch the noise level – make too much noise and you get to restart the level. There are even boss battles of sorts, all of which combine to add a lot of strategy and challenge to what could easily have become a game of “Where’s Waldo”.
Elebits also offers four player support, and nothing is quite as exciting or confusing as having four players all aiming and firing their color-coded beams onto the screen, shaking and moving items, and racing to collect the most Elebits. The only downside to this is that player one is in charge of actually moving the camera so in some way he has a slight advantage over the other players.
There is also a level creator included with Elebits that allows you to use levels from the main game and insert your own items and Elebits into the scene. Your list of available items is limited until you unlock more during solo play. But perhaps the most impressive element to this feature is the ability to share your levels with other gamers using WiiConnect24. Not even Nintendo has a game that uses their own network at this time. Great job Konami.
Elebits has a style not unlike an early Pixar animation short. Everything is large and colorful with round edges and childlike charm. The screen comes alive in a burst of color and special effects as your capture beam tosses around items in the level and Elebits scurry out from underneath like cockroaches when the lights come on.
With 30 levels there is a nice selection of styles and locations so things don’t get too boring or stale. Each new location brings with it a new assortment of items to manipulate and electronic puzzles to solve. These items also work extremely well as puzzle pieces in your own creations using the included level designer.
I really enjoyed the splash screen story pages, which just goes to prove that classy artwork can replace next-gen CGI if you do it with style and a unique vision.
The voice work is definitely phoned in. Given the static nature of the visuals I would just as much preferred to read the story rather than hear it. The music, while not as bad as teh speech, is just as forgettable.
The sound effects are where Elebits really shines and there is a great sound mix of all sorts of electronic sounds and sci-fi effects for the capture gun as well as impact sounds as you manipulate the onscreen world. It all comes together in a nice 3D Dolby Pro Logic II mix that sounds great.
Expect a good 20-30 hours to finish the single-player game. Some challenges and time limits will have you replaying a few of the levels, but it never got annoying when this happened. The multiplayer is a nice addition but any more than two players and the game can get a bit chaotic with so many capture streams and objectives getting tossed around.
The level editor is a great feature, although not everyone will use it, but there is already some interesting level designs floating around the WiiConnect24 network. Check ‘em out.
At times Elebits almost seemed like a tech demo – something cooked up to showcase the new controls for the Wii, but that was only because this is one of the first games to really use the remote and nunchuk in a way that Nintendo probably envisioned when they created it. After a 15-20 minute learning curve anyone of any age will feel right at home navigating the numerous screens and manipulating objects and collecting hundreds of Elebits. And with it’s colorful and charming design, Elebits is guaranteed to be a hit with the entire family.