HomeReviews4.5/5 ReviewThe Fall of Elena Temple Review

The Fall of Elena Temple Review

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The Fall of Elena Temple has a very rare quality. It manages to get us staring at the same level – a single game screen – for the best part of half an hour, yet we are neither bored nor frustrated. Instead, we are determined: we are going to solve the problem set in front of us. That’s no mean feat. It’s testament to the sheer awesomeness of its premise and the addictive properties of its level design. Don’t be fooled by the Game & Watch visuals. This is a belter.

Here’s the pitch. In The Fall of Elena Temple, you can fall. Jumping, though? Not so much. You can hop on the spot, nabbing a coin that floats above your head, but any kind of lateral jump is off the cards. For a platformer that’s a problem, so the designers have come up with something ingenious. In The Fall of Elena Temple, you swan dive off a platform, and behind you is left a number. Fall off another platform and the numbers continue in sequence: 1, 2, 3, 4. Now, with a tap of a shoulder button, you can teleport back to those previous states, counting back the numbers. You’re back up from the floor and ready to fall somewhere else. 

The Fall of Elena Temple review 1
Don’t be fooled by The Fall of Elena Temple

It’s not too dissimilar from the rewind mechanics you sometimes see in puzzle-platformers. Rewind back to somewhere old, but with the progress you have recently made. But this is extra-extra clever, because there are limits applied. Some levels might give you two of these numbers, others might give you five. Now you have to conserve your falls. 

Oh, there’s more. If you go over the limit, you’re not dead or stuck. Instead, the last number in the chain simply disappears. A snake of numbers follows behind you. This is where the mind melts: if you have a limit of four falls, say, then you will want to keep the number ‘4’ somewhere important. You don’t want to squander a position at the top of the level, for example, unless you can really help it. 

The objective is simple but tough. You need to collect every coin in a level. That means precious little room for error, as you need to be scooping up every last coin before you move on to a location where the coin is impossible to retrieve. Knowing when to move on, when to take your sequence of numbers elsewhere, is half of the puzzle. Figuring out the order of approach is the other half. 

Then there are the new obstacles, stirred into every third level or so. Just as you begin to fathom The Fall of Elena Temple, understanding its quirks, something else turns up and mucks with it. Hazards like snakes and spikes need a heart pick-up if you’re going to survive them. Cracked platforms will crumble if you step on them. Portals teleport you back up to places that you’d given up on. Then they combine in mind-boggling ways, leaving you – like us – staring at the screen for half an hour, wondering exactly how to manage a sequence of crumbling ledges.

It would probably surprise you to hear that The Fall of Elena Temple is no more than twenty levels. When they look as basic as this, and fit snugly onto a single game screen, you might wonder whether it’s value for money. But be reassured that each level is so ridiculously, bruisingly dense with dilemmas that you will be playing for hours. Or perhaps we’re a wee bit dumb, because we were stuck on certain levels for an age. 

The Fall of Elena Temple review 2
How are you navigating this one?

There is a double-edge to this challenge. A level in The Fall of Elena Temple can effectively be broken into twenty or thirty mini-decisions. Make a wrong decision and it’s game over. You might not know it’s game over until you’ve tried to pick up the very last coin, only to find that you have no path to an exit. So, you reset and start again. 

The double-edge is because a single foot wrong, a single coin gained out of order, is a failure. Yet, there might be one-hundred steps to the exit. We lost count of the number of times that we went through the same steps as we had done a dozen times before, only to realise we had forgotten a coin. The Fall of Elena Temple can feel robotic in that way: performing the same commands, over and over, trying to reach the last states of the puzzle. 

But mostly we’re in awe of the puzzle design in The Fall of Elena Temple. It does what every gimmick-based indie game should do: it explores every possible aspect of its gimmick, exploiting it as if livelihoods depended on it. It thinks out of the box and then taps the shoulder button to reverse back into it. 

A sign of a good mechanic is that we’ve – so far – completely ignored the presentation of The Fall of Elena Temple, when it is pretty notable. The Fall of Elena Temple is played on a screen within a screen: a ‘Grim Boy’, clearly harking back to the classic Game Boy. Weirdly enough, the Grim Boy and its screen reminded us more of the wind-up Playdate. The neon yellows and wide screen made us do some on-the-spot research to see if it was made for the little gadget. It was, if you were wondering. 

The Fall of Elena Temple could easily have been stretched to fit the TV screen, but we like this kooky interpretation. For one, it made us feel like we could afford a Playdate. For two, it brings a bit of needed colour to the screen, as The Fall of Elena Temple is cute but drab. There was a very good chance that it would look terrible stretched to a flatscreen. Here, the focus is in all the right places. 

The Fall of Elena Temple review 3
A killer idea

We can’t say that we expected to like The Fall of Elena Temple as much as we did. We expected a by-the-numbers indie platformer, robbed of attractive art and stuffed onto a screen as big as a Game & Watch. But by-the-numbers this isn’t: at least, not unless you count the 1s, 2s, 3s and 4s as you fall from platform to platform. 

The Fall of Elena Temple has got a killer idea and no qualms about exploring every facet. First we had to calibrate to its fall-reverse-fall gameplay, and then we got beaten round the head by its precisely designed puzzles. A bad game wouldn’t have been worth the effort, and a bad game this is not. The Fall of Elena Temple is worth every drop of your blood, sweat and tears.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Leans hard into gimmicks that work
  • Presentation is attention-grabbing
  • Puzzles are exquisite
Cons:
  • Can feel like you’re robotically following commands
  • Will be too brutal for some
  • Requires extreme patience
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, GrimTalin
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One
  • Release date and price - 30 April 2024 | £2.49
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Leans hard into gimmicks that work</li> <li>Presentation is attention-grabbing</li> <li>Puzzles are exquisite</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Can feel like you’re robotically following commands</li> <li>Will be too brutal for some</li> <li>Requires extreme patience</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, GrimTalin</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One <li>Release date and price - 30 April 2024 | £2.49</li> </ul>The Fall of Elena Temple Review
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