I can't say that I didn't fall asleep more than once while playing 4 Elements HD
What’s your favorite match-3 puzzle game? There are a lot to choose from, including Bejeweled, Puzzle Quest, and even Bust a Move-type games. 4 Elements HD isn’t exactly a match-3 game. Rather, your job is to get a pocket of energy from point A to point B. To do so, you draw lines connecting three or more stones of the same color in order to delete tiles underneath. New stones fall or appear in the cleared stones’ place, and the energy flows into the empty area. Repeat until you get to the objective, which is a magical alter in need of some mystical energy activation. The backstory of the game is that you’re using your powers to save a kingdom that has fallen into corruption. You must make the four elements revert to being good for the kingdom as opposed to threatening the land and its people.
For the first few levels, a little faery acts as a flying tutorial, teaching you of new tile-types and ice blocks and the like. Soon enough, a mysterious mage who is tracking your progress bestows upon you magical powers. The first power you receive is a spade, which is used to break one tile. In order to power it up, you have to make chains of green stones. Other powers include a bomb, the ability to swap two stones, and the ability to shuffle all of the stones on-screen. Each of the powers is linked to a different color stone (the stones change colors later on in the game so it’s useless to list which one is initially linked to what power). You can either hold L1 and press a face button to select a power or simply move your cursor over it and press X (or T if you’re using the Move).
The screen moves forward with the energy flow, which makes sense, but the player has no control over the camera; once it moves, there’s no moving back. There were several instances when I set up a monster chain only to have it cut off by the immovable screen. In a game where most of the excitement is derived from making mammoth chains, that’s a downer. Each element has 16 levels associated with it. When you move on to the next element, the stone colors and background art change. The game also gets a bit harder by forcing you to use your powers. However, what doesn’t change a bit is the core gameplay. There is very little room for strategy in this game, which means you’re going to be thoughtlessly drawing lines the entire time. The whole affair is casual to a fault.
Each level has a high score leaderboard, but it seems that one person learned some secret that allows him to be number one on every single level. Phif, your 4 Elements HD mastery grants you a shout out in this review. Completing levels grains you points that can be used to upgrade your castle. Something weird about the upgrade system is that a bunch of the upgrades undo other upgrades. For example, I built a dirt road to my castle because I thought it looked the coolest. The brick road upgrade is still available and wipes away the dirt, laying down brick in its place. You’re not upgrading from dirt to brick; your road is not getting better. They’re both level one upgrades that undo each other. I wouldn’t complain except for the fact that every time I beat a level a big “YOU HAVE CASTLE UPGRADES” message pops up on the screen. The upgrades are purely aesthetic; you’re basically adding things to a portrait of a castle. Bob Ross would undoubtedly love this part of the game. I, however, do not.
I can’t say that I didn’t fall asleep more than once while playing 4 Elements HD. Its gameplay remains stagnant for the most part, and the challenge comes from forcing you to use your powers on certain levels. Still, it’s fun to pick up and play a few levels every once in a while. The level select screen is nifty, and it’s always nice when a puzzle game allows you to play your own music. PlayStation Move support works as it should. You point at the screen and draw lines. I did have to recalibrate a couple of times during play, so it’s not perfect, but it works. I don’t understand the castle upgrading system. If it were like Plants vs Zombies wherein you can compare your lawn to your friends’ lawns, that would be somewhat cool. As it stands, though, it’s a private piece of enjoyment that’s all but lost on me. If you’re into casual match-3 puzzling, 4 Elements will give you your kicks.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
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