Elliot Quest is a difficult game to review. On one hand it’s a great modern throwback to Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. On the other hand it is a game meant to play and feel like it was made in the late 80’s. So to give a fair warning, the only way I can possibly review this game is through the lens of nostalgia, since I was a huge Zelda II fan.
The gameplay is mostly an old school skill based platformer with a slight mix of Metroidvania thrown in. At first it seems you will mostly be running around, simply shooting enemies. But you quickly realize that your character is limited by not having essential abilities. Luckily, these abilities can be gained through powerups that you must search for. After a while the skill ceiling raises because you can use your powerups in creative ways. Some challenges are generally difficult enough that it will take a few tries, and the only punishment for death is to lose some experience points.
One great element of this game is that it’s somewhat non-linear and encourages exploration. There is a overworld map where you walk around (like in RPGs). Several destinations have multiple different ways to reach them. This provides a wonderful sense of exploration, but it can also lead to frustration. You never know what you are looking for; even if you did, you have no idea where to find it.
There is a bit of a puzzle element to the game as well. In several places you must think outside of the box to progress further. Often, it will feel like theres no way forward, but maybe you have to use an item in a special way or revisit the area later when you are stronger or have more abilities.
There are a few issues with the gameplay that I have. First is total lack of information on how to play the game and what you might find. You have no idea how choices affect you or if they are choices at all, similarly you do not know if a powerup will eventually allow you to achieve something or if you just need to find another way with what you have. To slightly remedy this, I have created Elliot Quest: The Missing Manual, which includes the basic information that will get you started.
The next problem is that some secret areas require you to jump off cliffs to find them (its a bit of a theme in this game), however, jumping off cliffs gets you killed most of the time, and you lose experience. This causes a lot of frustration, and I suppose it’s just a poor choice of design.
Clearly, this game is pixel art. With the exception of a few monsters, it’s generally well done. It manages to look good while also looking retro – enough to feel like we could be playing on NES era hardware. Some rotating elements are smoothly rotated so it doesn’t quite look pixellated, but it doesn’t really blow the illusion.
While a little shallow on story, I feel this was intentional. It has perhaps about the same amount of story as Zelda II. There are three possible endings and none of them are entirely satisfying. This is probably the weakest part of the game, as you end up not really caring about the ending that much.
Overall Score: 85/100