4 Elements HD brings match three puzzling to the PSN with a twist, and Move support as well, but does it bring fun to the table? It’s time for PlayStation LifeStyle to find out.
4 Elements HD starts off with the simple premise of an ancient kingdom in trouble, which needs you to help by restoring the powers of the four elements. After the short introduction to the minimal storyline, you’ll find yourself on puzzle boards filled with colored gems, which must be cleared away by matching three or more of the same color. So far it’s fairly similar to any number of puzzle games on the web, but 4 Elements HD brings a few new tricks to make it distinct.
Each level in the game has a fluid like substance, “energy,” which the player must guide to a magical alter within a set time limit. Barring the way are dirtlike tiles, which get cleared away whenever the gem on top is matched up to be taken off the board. This simple concept changes the strategy behind the game drastically, since it’s no longer about clearing as many gems as you can, but instead getting the fluid across the map as fast as possible. Making longer chains is still useful though, since matching five gems or more will cause an explosion, clearing tiles and gems, which gets larger in proportion to how long the chain is.
Various obstacles will get in the way as progress is made through the levels as well. Certain gems will be frozen in ice, which requires the player to match the gem inside to crack the ice off, and then match it again to clear the tile beneath. Stones will occupy spaces, which can be broken away by explosions, or gems below them can be cleared to let them fall further down the board. Finally, fire arrows can be encountered, which shoot across the level breaking anything in their path once they touch the fluid.
Inevitably you’ll reach a situation where there are few matches to make, and none of them are helping to clear the path ahead of you. Luckily, four powers will help along the way, which build up as you clear away the corresponding color of gem. A spade power allows clearing any one tile on the board, while a bomb lets you blow up stones and frozen gems. A swapping power lets any two unfrozen gems have their places switched, and the final power reshuffles all the pieces on the board.
All these characteristics add up to make what’s initially fun and interesting puzzle game, but 4 Elements HD has one major fault that holds it back from being great. It’s quite lengthy, but after getting about a quarter way through, all the game’s mechanics will have already been introduced and put to thorough use. From there on out, all variation comes from different level layouts with varying amounts of frozen blocks and stones dispersed throughout. The challenge ramps up steadily as expected, but all the increase seems to come from the level being longer and the timer being shorter, rather than developing deeper puzzle mechanics. As a result everything starts feeling monotonous within the first half of the game.
To be fair, 4 Elements HD does sport great length, with 64 levels divided across four areas, each with a different theme for a corresponding element. It makes for a nice visual presentation, since the appearance of levels and gem designs change over the course of play, but unfortunately the effect is only aesthetic. In that respect it does well with visuals that are clear and colorful, but for all the focus on elements, it would have been nice to see some effect on gameplay. There’s even a castle you can view between levels, which is upgradeable with various parts purchased using the points you earn, but again, there’s no purpose to the castle beyond aesthetics. Oddly enough, you can barely even see it on the level select screen (it doesn’t even appear to be the same castle), which shows a landscape that changes as sections of the game are completed. Nonetheless, these visual extras are nice for a little extra flair, and help to grant a sense of progress through the often repetitive levels.
Move controls are implemented quite well, and in fact make it easier and faster to play, so using Move is recommended, especially for the harder levels. Unfortunately, the button mapping for using the powers feels clunky, even after hours of play, requiring an odd extra button press to activate. There’s also a neat autosave feature, which records your progress midlevel, even if you quickly use the XMB to quit out, making it an easy game to put down and come back to later.
Overall, 4 Elements HD makes for a mildly entertaining foray back into the world of match three puzzles games, and if you’re a fan of those, you really can’t go wrong. Like others in the genre, it’s the type of thing you’ll want to work through in small chunks, as a quick break from something a little more intense in life. With a mere $10 price tag, 4 Elements HD provides plenty of gameplay, but it’s still something I would only recommend to people who are already fans of the genre, and perhaps people looking for another game to utilize their Move controller with.
PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score
+ Plenty of gameplay, over 60 levels
+ A new twist on classic match 3 games
– Last half of the game feels extremely repetitive