A system with a wildly different control scheme like the Wii is not very common in the gaming world. Actually, it seems to be firmly rooted in the realm of Nintendo – they put handheld gaming on the map with the Game Boy, had the unique Virtual Boy and then came out with the Nintendo DS. The DS is one of Nintendo’s gaming innovations most like the Wii – people were used too the traditional D-Pad and buttons control set and, while the DS does indeed have those, it also introduces the stylus that most PDA users commonly use for their games.
This untapped market helped propel Nintendo to a huge lead in the handheld gaming realm. The only problem is that, at first, many games felt like it used the stylus not because it enhanced the gaming experience but because it was there and they had to use it. However, a couple of games came out early in the system’s life and used the stylus as the game’s central focus with a design that couldn’t really be done without it – Yoshi’s Touch and Go being one of my personal favorites.
In a way, Elebits is a lot like Yoshi’s Touch and Go. Elebits has a unique style with a concept that can only be done justice on the Wii. Opening doors by turning the Wiimote, flinging all sorts of things all over the place in the house and zapping those Elebits to capture them couldn’t be done on any of the previous generation’s consoles or this generation’s consoles. While the graphics aren’t anywhere near the levels of what the PS3 and XBOX 360 put out, neither of them could do Elebits the same way the Wii does. That is one of the things that makes Elebits a great game and one of the best to show your new system off to friends.
Elebits starts out simply enough, with a story that is nothing special. Your parents are some high-falutin researchers who leave you alone at home while they go off to help find a reason as to why the world has lost all its power. You see, Elebits are something your parents have constantly researched, causing them to not have nearly as much time to spend with you. Yeah, the story is actually pretty sad. So, what does a kid do when his parents leave him alone at the house, unable to even watch his TV because the Elebits that provide power are gone? That right – he goes out searching for the Elebits while wrecking the house in the process!
At its core, Elebits is a version of hide-and-seek, except that you’re trying to seek out a ton of these little Elebits – tiny creatures that are supposed to power all of the electronics in the world or some such. The premise behind the game really only gives you an excuse to experiment with a damned fun physics engine and look just about everywhere to find these little guys. They’ll hide inside toilet paper rolls, behind books and in the tiniest nooks and crannies – finding each and every one of them is definitely a challenge. I quite often would miss a few handfuls each level and never manage to finish with higher than a C rating but I had a ton of fun doing it.
Part of the charm of Elebits is the physics engine that I already mentioned. You see, your main ‘weapon’ in the game will capture those Elebits you see running around the level. However, it has a much more interesting use – it can grab objects and, provided it has enough strength, fling objects around the room. To power it up, you’ll need to find the regular Elebits throughout the level as they will power up the devices in the area. After that, you’ll get to turn said devices on and find the power Elebits that strengthen your gun. While you’ll only be able to lift small things at the start of a level, you’ll soon be able to lift heavy boxes and such, eventually getting to the point where you can lift cars and houses.
Sure, you’re doing all of this to find those Elebits, but it manages to remain fun throughout the whole game. While it seems like it could get boring, it really doesn’t. The progression throughout the game of lifting and tossing around bigger and bigger objects feels a lot like another quirky title that seemed repetitive on the outside but was still damned fun to play – Katamari Damacy. While you don’t collect a wide variety of objects like you do in Katamari, you do get to toss a ton of different things around – there’s something to say about picking up a house that just makes a game a blast. And the included multiplayer mode adds even more fun, as one player controls the camera and everyone is competing to find the most Elebits. Unfortunately, you have to unlock new levels in the single player mode to play them in multiplayer, so while you can jump right into the game with multiplayer, you only get one level to start out with like that.
Elebits doesn’t stop at this whole concept of picking up and tossing tons of objects. While there is no “sandbox” mode of sorts that lets you just toss objects around a level, there is something that is arguably many times better – an edit mode. You see, after you beat a level, you can go back and edit said level. While you can’t completely design your own level, you can take the maps already set in place and put various objects where ever you want in them and set the timer for the level ridiculously high, giving you time to just throw things around. You can also make regular levels if you want but, at least to me, the big benefit of the edit mode is the ability to do totally wacky physics “experiments”. With enough time and dedication, you can do something like what one guy did – check out the video Elebits Domino 01 some time on Youtube to see what I mean. The best part about all of this is that you can send any of these levels to people on your Wii Friends list once every 24 hours. This feature really goes a long way to extending playability -- I’d love to see some way to download more popular levels directly from Nintendo, though.
While the game has a ton of upside, it does still have some stuff that gets annoying. First of all, the game’s physics engine can sometimes get in the way. Take, for example, my issue on one of the earlier levels. I had made a total mess in my bedroom and wanted to leave. I tried to open the door multiple times. The first couple, there was a small something or other in the way and it wouldn’t budge. After that, the door closed itself after I opened it because I was too close. That managed to get annoying pretty fast. Also, while I like the whole hide-and-seek concept, it can be really hard to nab the Elebit sitting off in some corner when you can barely see it and can’t move the stuff around it. Lastly, turning on a lot of the devices can be a major chore – their “switch” area can be so tiny. Even though the aiming reticule changes when you’re over the area, those without steady hands will find turning on some of the smaller devices a test in patience.
Everyone that owns a Wii owes it to themselves to pick up this game, despite its faults. Sure, the physics engine isn’t perfect. Sometimes little things will annoy you in the game. And, on occasion, you’ll get frustrated as you try to turn on that stupid flashlight so you can get the power Elebits to lift that box in the corner. However, these faults don’t make the game unplayable in the least – you’ll still have a ton of fun as you toss around cars, lift houses and basically just make a mess without any fear of getting in any trouble whatsoever. Elebits really is a unique experience that you’ll only find on the Wii and is one of the good reasons to check out the system. While it isn’t the best launch game on the system, it definitely does a good job of showing off what the Wii is about – using a unique control scheme to make a game that couldn’t really be made elsewhere.