When you first see Elliot, it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. The title immediately has an art style that is slightly grating. It gives off the impression of the hundreds of shovelware games on Steam and even Xbox every week. However there is a substance over style; this is a finely-tuned and challenging 2D platformer. It’s great fun and can stand up with many of it’s more popular indie contemporaries. The levels are varied, the obstacles are often ingenious, and the gameplay will ensure you are glued to the screen in concentration. This is a hidden gem and should not be missed.
You start with a short cutscene that introduces you to the main characters of this adventure – two little blob creatures called “mombas” named Elliot and Manuel. The dialogue is very simple throughout but it’s entertaining enough, giving off cartoon vibes. The partners in crime have a pleasant relationship, and I always liked seeing Manuel in the levels. Their design however brings up one of my biggest issues with the experience.
The game is just boring to look at. The levels, while they change their environments, all eventually start blending together. It’s difficult to expect a small indie studio to get great art assets brought together, so this is a minor complaint – but Elliot looks almost like a mobile game.
This goes for the music as well. The first time you hear many tracks they appear to be catchy and work well. However, again, the tracks start blending together. In fact, I believe many are repeated several times, and if they don’t, then well, they all sound eerily similar to each other. That being said though, the boss music is great and stands as a highlight.
However, the levels those tracks cover stay a constant surprise and ensure that Elliot is a pleasure to play. Starting off very simple and then quickly getting more complex as it goes on, things stay consistently inventive and difficult, requiring you to use your very simple skillset to the absolute limits. Just be aware that you will die; you will succumb to these levels quite a lot; especially if you attempt to collect all of the optional music notes in every one that are stuck in insane spots.
The chances of death are numerous in Elliot also due to an impressive number of levels that never overstay their welcome. The length feels just long enough for this to be a satisfying journey without becoming stale or frustrating. There’s around sixty levels with several boss encounters throughout.
These bosses are an absolute blast and will destroy your little guy over and over again. They mostly consist of rushing through levels that require speed and precision, as the boss chases you the whole time. If you’re too slow, you die. Just in the first boss encounter I succumbed around 200 times according to the in-game counter. This isn’t Super Meat Boy, but it gets close. I certainly felt like I was restarting the levels just as much.
Enemies cover every stage but they generally work more for the platforming then being actually obstacles. Elliot can sprint, jump, and slow down time for a mid-air dash. The dash kills all enemies, and when you do it gets recharged. This will mean that a skilled player can begin bouncing off enemies in unison to fly through sections. It’s nice that occasionally the game creates clever situations that require you to do this.
Clever situations are the greatest asset of Elliot. I have been both impressed and surprised with the amount of smart and well-designed scenarios that the game throws in front of the player. Many of them often need several runthroughs before it starts to click, and this is doubly so for the boss encounters. I was always being challenged; always engaged in the action going on because of that.
Elliot on Xbox may not look like much at first, but if you give it a try you’ll find a brutal platformer that can both entertain and frustrate for hours. The levels are massively creative and shockingly well-designed. This game deserves to be successful, mostly because I would love to see what the team behind it could do with a bigger budget. Overall, Elliot is a rock solid title that has the fundamentals locked tight.