The first-person perspective has been dropped, but Elebits’ Wii DNA is present in Kai’s mission to hoover up the electro-beasts. Capturing Elebits (needed to open doors and operate machinery) is a neat, tactile affair – you shake the scenery with your stylus, tag the escaping ’Bits, and tap your sidekick Zero to grab them. In a nice arcadey twist, tagging the first Elebit begins a countdown – you’ve got a few seconds to try and grab more before Zero brings them in.
Konami rarely get touchy-feely with the stylus, which is a shame, as Elebits demonstrates excellent command. Quick reflex tagging works nicely in conjunction with the drag-and-drop physics (chunky and fun rather than scientifically accurate). Likewise, a range of Omega Elebits – who are swapped in and out of Zero’s place – offer special abilities (fire streams, ice nuggets, magnetic force) aimed with the stylus.
In a way, the Omega concept could be the idea Pokémon’s been looking for. As in Nintendo’s monster hit you collect ’em all, but each of ’em happens to work like one of Link’s tools in Phantom Hourglass. A bestiary becomes a tool belt as dungeons are constructed around your elemental powers; screens of stats are exchanged for physical usefulness. This is kind of what Nintendo were hinting at in Pokémon Ranger, only developed to a more satisfying end.
Sadly, Elebits’ puzzle confidence vanishes elsewhere. Dungeons are good in that they see a high concentration of Omega action, but the overworlds struggle to hold your attention. You’re constantly shaking rocks and trees, with only a handful of near-harmless critters to up the difficulty. There’s no combat as such – you can smash threats with levitated rocks – although boss encounters impress in a Phantom Hourglass kind of way.
It loses something, too, in the move from the Wii’s kitchens, bathrooms and suburbs to more fantastical lands. That the story revolves around a talking bus hints at the target audience (children and bus spotters), but the anarchic silliness of trashing a house Finders Keepers-style is missed in Elebits’ selection of caves, beaches and the obligatory ice world. If the repetitive Elebit-tagging doesn’t get you, the ultra-cuteness will. Still, games that embrace the DS to this extent are few and far between. For this alone, Elebits DS needn’t feel too ashamed in the shadow of its Wii brother.
Feb 25, 2009