Gaming is riding a wave of reliving a childhood time, diving headfirst towards a maelstrom of nostalgia. Every form of entertainment is capitalising off the old school trend that is saturating the market. The Adventures of Elena Temple is another addition to the resurgence of classic games. Sporting a suitable art style that harkens back to the day of a bygone era; an age where a group of friends would huddle around their favourite arcade machine, each hoping to gain the bragging rights of the high score. The Adventures of Elena Temple aims to recreate that feeling of childhood wonderment and accomplishment, bringing with it both the good and the bad of a simpler time.
The most notable feature to capture the eye is how it attempts to invoke its nostalgic tendencies. Playing in the style of a classic retro platformer, The Adventures of Elena Temple creates its own faux-history via the selection screen. Immediately, you are introduced to the timeline of our heroine, how she has been obscured by mascots such as Mario, and her journey through a collection of console generations. Mirroring a similarly faux-history of our consoles (with appliances such as “Some Toy Advanced” and “Maple”), the choice of art style that best suits your own history is one of the strongest suits. By having the ability to use whichever art style resonates with yourself creates your own sense of personal satisfaction and a feeling of warmth that very few games manage to achieve.
Unfortunately, by bringing over all those style elements, The Adventures of Elena Temple, also plays on the negatives from that era. Though it’s a gorgeous and accurate representation of yesteryear, it also plays in that same style. Featuring only two levels, the main objective is presented as a collect-a-thon, tasking you to retrieve a plethora of coins and jewels. A handy map screen is available to see where you’ve visited, what’s left to collect and how best to navigate the game’s stages. Broken up into segmented rooms, each provides basic platforming challenges which provide a necessary difficulty to make them rewarding. A forgiving respawn system allows trial and error to survive the perils. However, some rooms are weaker than others, filled with hard to navigate hazards, resulting in some cheap deaths. It can often feel like a battle of attrition before finally emerging victorious, reaping in the rewards. It’s a shame, as some rooms portray some glimmers of platforming brilliance, which makes for a stark contrast against the others.
The two levels do manage to differentiate themselves from one another. One provides an onslaught of tough platforming challenges, as you scavenge the room for all goodies. The second level mixes this up, featuring platforms that move or disappear in time with you jumping. This is definitely the stronger of the two and provides a breath of fresh air. Clocking in at around two hours, The Adventures of Elena Temple is fairly priced, yet even at that short run time, everything the game has to offer can be experienced in half of that. It’s up to the true completionists on whether they wish to push the game to its limits.
Controls remain fairly simple and Elena only boasts a few moves. Each level begins with a quick tutorial section introducing how to move, jump and shoot. Though this is representative of the time, it holds The Adventures of Elena Temple from going beyond more than a simple look into the past. With games such as Celeste and The Messenger retaining a retro vibe, but infusing that modern day control scheme that makes them much more accessible, Elena plays like one of the pocket games you would have got in an old box of cereal and unfortunately, keeps you from being directly engaged in its platforming. Games of this genre often muster an “easy to pick up, hard to master” mentality, but here, while it is easy to pick up, it never feels like any true skill is needed to master, just patience.
The Adventures of Elena Temple on Xbox One feels like an artifact in a museum; beautiful, interesting, but ultimately throwaway. An impressive visual aesthetic which features a lovely roster of customisable options to cater to your own nostalgic sense. Bland platforming, an un-even myriad of level design and short length also accompany alongside, holding the game back from others of this genre. It proves as a testament to how far games have come, but provides a looking glass into the past for those who want a truly authentic experience.
If you’re looking for a blast to the past, with all the trimmings, then this may be the game for you. However, if you’re expecting anything decent alongside the current trend of retro releases, you may find The Adventures of Elena Temple lacking in that regard.