Wii

North America

Elebits

by Evan Burchfield - January 15, 2007, 9:40 am PST
Total comments: 9

6.5

Find, catch, and mercilessly destroy cute creatures so you can power your toaster.

Elebits is a unique concept game that is intent to prove the Wii Remote is the “new wave" – if that wasn't a hard enough goal, Konami has self-imposed a comparison of the game to Katamari Damacy since it was first announced. This comparison is somewhat true since the two do have some odd similarities, but as soon as the two games differ, Konami's unwise design choices become evident. In the end, Elebits isn't as elegant or innovative as they, or we, may have wished it to be, leaving Katamari triumphant and Elebits just this side of mediocre.

I want to lay out in detail why Elebits and Katamari Damacy are similar, and if I seem indiscreet the reader must forgive me - Konami has gone out of its way to mention Katamari as a source inspiration for Elebits, and anyone who has played both will have trouble disconnecting the two. What is odd is that Elebits has the trappings of a shooter, much unlike its older brother, and this dissimilarity is Elebits' greatest strength. Aside from this immediate difference, the two games are extremely similar. In terms of subject matter, both games seem preoccupied with household objects and the basic aesthetics of every day life. Each game has a time limit that counts downward, and they both share inane plots (although the plot of Elebits is in no way interesting or amusing). Most important though is the gameplay structure: each game has the player performing a bizarre yet simple task while navigating benign territory, slowly unlocking access to new areas in a level by continually performing the same task. For Elebits, this is done via a "Capture Gun" that is utilized to catch the Elebits who are the source of all electricity. For some reason, they've abandoned their posts and are no longer providing energy to the world's appliances. Each level consists of a variety of objects tucked away in closets, on shelves, neatly stacked on tables, or behind glass doors - all of these objects must be shaken or turned around with the Capture Gun to expose the hidden blue, red, and other variously colored Elebits. Once found, they must be zapped by this same gun and turned into electricity. As more electricity is gained in each level, more appliances can be turned on, and in so doing you can reveal special yellow and pink Elebits that enhance the Capture Gun's ability to lift heavy objects. The typical level sees you finding as many of the red/blue variety of Elebits as you can until you can turn on the TV, the ceiling fan, the refrigerator, or the sprinklers, revealing the special Elebits that will allow your Capture Gun to lift boxes, pianos, and cars that block your way.

Now the most immediate difference between Katamari and Elebits is right here. While Katamari's therapeutic brain relaxing gameplay encourages the player to make the world cleaner and simpler, Elebits encourages you to make a mess. The Elebits themselves are not often lying around as are the objects in Katamari, rather they are hidden in books and dishes that are neatly packed on the shelves of the house, encouraging you to completely destroy the tight organization of the house to find them. This is not only counter intuitive to the basic premise of simple, free-form gameplay, but is actually a huge roadblock to completing each level. Because you leave a trail behind you at all times, and backtracking is encouraged and eventually required, you'll spend the last few minutes of each level pushing aside your junk so you can merely open a door or get a better view. Since the timer is counting down rather than up, each level will end if you have not captured enough Elebits within the prescribed time limit. Many levels of the game have to be played twice through in order to learn their ins and outs and better prepare your progress, and with some reaching fifteen minutes long, it's no picnic. All this adds up to is a frustrating experience that doesn't feel nearly as laid back as Katamari Damacy.

But even on its own merits, Elebits is lacking. The physics keep the basic gameplay fun, but unfortunately this fun is not what gets you through the level. Finding the Elebits is your goal, and this isn't as fun as throwing vacuum cleaners around the simplistic, lifeless worlds. After a few levels the gameplay itself gets wearing, and in anticipation of that moment the game introduces concepts such as limitations on noise and breaking things, enemies and health, and later, zero-gravity. These keep things fresh for awhile, (and make the game hard), but not long enough to draw more fun out of the concept. In presentation Elebits is a first person shooter, and frankly it is quite successful as a completely unorthodox take on the genre; the Wii Remote shines in the game, and I suppose that was Konami's primary goal. Some later outdoor levels seem to be channeling more orthodox first person shooter level design, but these unfortunately feature consistent slowdown that lets up only when facing a wall. This is sad, since these levels are great fun compared to the stop and go of raiding a closet. Even the game's interiors suffer from slowdown when there are a lot of objects in play, like during the zero-gravity levels (which are more fun than the real gravity ones). Finally, a very serious error was made with the game's hit detection: the game simplifies hit detection by reducing each object to a rounded off blob when trying to pick it up. These blobs are often bigger than the objects you are trying to manipulate, meaning that if you see an Elebit just to the right of a piano, you may not be able to capture it since your Capture Gun is trying to pick up the piano instead. This reduces the aiming in the game to a bit of a joke, which isn't funny when the entire game is about aiming a gun.

Konami seems to have spent extra care in providing a full package for their limited game; there is a multitude of modes, and high scores on each level unlock new objectives and features. Among these are Challenge Missions which differ from the first playthrough, and Score Attack mode. The multiplayer mode is limited, but has its moments: each player shares one screen, and movement is given to only one player at a time. From the menu you can decide if this rotates every game, or every few seconds, which is pretty fun but not in large doses. Also there is the ability to customize the levels by placing the Elebits and objects wherever you want, which could potentially see some great results, aided by the Internet and a considerable time investment. These levels, as well as in-game screenshots, can be traded via WiiConnect 24.

Elebits is a launch title that's a bit more ambitious than it should have been. The game is easy to pick up, but as the levels continue it becomes clear that the frustrations are not going to be eased, and the various modes are just repeating something you've already played. Many people will likely be able to dive into the game and glean some enjoyment from it, so to the curious, I recommend playing before buying. There probably won't ever be a Katamari killer, but there may be room on the Wii for a quirky shooter with more traditional gameplay. Elebits is not that game, but it gets really close.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
6.5 9 8.5 5.5 8 6.5
Graphics
6.5

The bright, colorful look of the levels gives the game some charm, while the Elebits themselves steal the show. The game's hit detection is simplified such that the shape of each object is not really correlative to where you are allowed to zap it to pick it up - this makes intricate aiming across rooms or through objects impossible. The game engine chugs during large levels, or when lots of objects are spinning in zero-g. The game is deliberately sparse, and would not receive low marks if it could merely keep up with itself, or if hit detection were not so poorly designed.

Sound
9

The music in the game is catchy and moody, an easy-listening ambient techno that makes the night time levels mysterious and interesting. The sound design is equally excellent in that each action of the Capture Gun is related to a noise, enhancing the player's ability to read a situation even if he can't see everything that's going on in the busy mess of objects.

Control
8.5

Movement and aiming are simple and workable with sensitivity settings customizable. It is slightly irritating that one of the game's main features, throwing objects, requires you to vigorously move the Wii Remote until it is not pointing at the screen any longer, which can cause breaks in gameplay.

Gameplay
5.5

Good ideas, fun physics to play with, but it ultimately doesn't go anywhere substantial. New gameplay limits, like noise and health, are introduced often, but they never promote the basic idea beyond its limits. Making a mess in each level is actually really frustrating when the clock is ticking, and it leaves you unsatisfied. Repeating levels because of the countdown timer is frustrating, especially when you get stuck in the objects that you had to throw around to beat the level at all.

Lastability
8

Some of the modes (like Score Attack) just repeat gameplay seen before, but others do unlock new fun ways to play the game. Creating levels is as worthwhile as the time you put in it, and trading levels and screenshots over the Internet is a great first step for WiiConnect 24. For those who want more Elebits, there's more to be had.

Final
6.5

Elebits is definitely not trash; in fact, it's got some fun stuff to it. Take away the slowdown, give me some larger levels, and I'd be sold. Otherwise, the concept of the game feels unfinished and is inert by the twenty-fifth go around.

Summary

Pros
  • Controls streamlined, easy to use
  • Fun, light-techno score
  • Great use of the Wii Remote
Cons
  • Countdown timer forces replay of long levels
  • Easy to get stuck in the geometry
  • Simple premise never takes flight
  • Slowdown, especially in exteriors, hampers action
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

ShyGuyJanuary 15, 2007

Excellent! More fodder for my mafia impersonation.

Smash_BrotherJanuary 15, 2007

Well said, Ev.

I think my biggest gripe with the game is that Konami spent pocket change on making it, considering the engine was stolen, the graphics were muddy and bland, the editor was the same editor used to create the actual levels, etc.

What really kills me is the potential split screen gravity gun multiplayer would have had. Imagine moving each other over obstacles as you try to collect Elebits and solve massive puzzles. Once one player is holding another player in the air, the second player would be required to lift and move objects around while in the air. They could have done so much with it, rather than make the multiplayer a chaotic mess.

But yeah, the game starts off well enough, but it just keeps dragging on: the levels get larger and longer but in no way become more fun.

I think it works as a "proof of concept" game: Konami definitely proved the concept. Now it needs to be used in another game which requires lifting and moving objects as a small part of a much larger gameplay mechanic (Forensics games, FTW!).

AcefonduJanuary 15, 2007

I can't say this game blew me away, but I can't say I agree with the review score either. Most of what was said about the game was accurate, especially the slowdown. The game can sometimes become unplayable as it gets so slow. I really don't think it deserves a 6.5 though. The level editor alone makes it at least a 7.5.

EntroperJanuary 15, 2007

The problem I have with the level editor is that it makes the game consume a huge amount of the Wii's flash memory, even if you haven't actually created any levels. Twilight Princess is a big game, and it uses 1 block. Elebits uses 109.

Anyway, I think the review hit the nail on the head. It's like a new twist on Katamari, and it's fun, but it could've been a lot better. I think a lot of the challenges put forth to the player were more annoying than fun, for example trying not to break things or make too much noise. C'mon, you can't make noise in the house when your parents are gone anyway? I also was frustrated by having to play levels twice, and this started happening much earlier in the game than it should have. And the "stuck in geometry" bug is not fun when you've spent 20+ minutes trying to complete a level and then ruin a good run.

Well, here's looking forward to Elebits 2, but I'll look for a review that says it's improved on all these things before I make a trip to the store.

GoldenPhoenixJanuary 15, 2007

All I can say is that I agree with Matt and Mark from IGN, Elebits is one of the best games of the year. But I do agree the game is not for everyone, its charm will differ from person to person! So have a nice day face-icon-small-happy.gif.

IceColdJanuary 16, 2007

Have to agree with VG here, in that the game deserved a lot more than a 6.5. It sounds like your first impression from E3 is clouding your judgement here..

KDR_11kJanuary 16, 2007

Twilight Princess is a big game, and it uses 1 block. Elebits uses 109.

Twilight Princess takes 4 blocks on the Gamecube. Big game does not mean big savefile.

EntroperJanuary 16, 2007

1 block on the Gamecube = 8 kB
1 block on the Wii = 128 kB

So TP is taking 32 kB, and Elebits is taking 14 MB. Super Mario 64 -- the entire game -- doesn't consume that much space. It's not such a big deal if you're saving levels that you've created, but I'm saying it shouldn't use such a huge chunk of space just to save your progress in the game. It always bothers me when developers are lazy on space, and this is a pretty good example.

Smash_BrotherJanuary 16, 2007

My review for the game was a 7.5 which I thought it deserved for a surprisingly touching ending.

Getting there was murder, though...

Share + Bookmark





Elebits Box Art

Genre Party/Parlor
Developer Konami
Players1 - 4
OnlineYes
Controllers

Worldwide Releases

na: Elebits
Release Dec 12, 2006
PublisherKonami
RatingEveryone
jpn: Elebits
Release Dec 02, 2006
PublisherKonami
RatingAll Ages
eu: Eledees
Release May 04, 2007
PublisherKonami
Rating3+
aus: Eledees
Release May 07, 2007
PublisherAtari
RatingGeneral

Related Content

Got a news tip? Send it in!
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement