Every Friday on our blog I’ll feature a game that’s doing something unique, innovative, and truly noteworthy. This isn’t just an app review; it’s an analytical look at a fresh game from the perspective of someone within the game industry.
At first glance, Elements War looks like your typical mobile game - it’s got great graphics and utilizes the smartphone’s touchscreen. Sure, there’s a bit of the Bubble Bobble feeling, given that the game runs on colored orbs, but other than that, nothing nostalgic about it. Not long into the game, actually the first time you fail a level, the game hits you with the Old School: “Continue?” Okay, Elements War doesn’t use this exact word, but it charges soft currency, the game's only currency, to keep playing. Now before you grab your torch and pitchfork, take a second to think how this differs from decades of arcade games and pinball machines (I’ll give you a hint, it doesn’t)…
I get the counterargument: this game costs $0.99 up front, how dare the developers charge for more? Aside from the fact that it’s pretty hard to make a living selling things at a dollar apiece, this is a blanket statement that doesn’t pay any attention to the game itself. In a week of playing Elements War I haven’t once been even tempted to buy more Gold. The game’s economy is very well-balanced, and there are several things to do while you earn more spending power. The game is broken into Story Mode and Chaos Mode, as I often do, I began with the Story. This is a bit of a misnomer, there’s no actual story, but this phase of the game progresses in stages and levels. Story Mode features 80 total levels, broken into 8 worlds, each representing a checkpoint. Fail at Level 1-1? Start over. Move on, but fail at 1-2? Here’s the fun part. You’re given the choice of starting over from 1-1, paying 50 Gold to start the level over, or paying 100 Gold to get one more shot from where you failed.
Pretty cool, right? Instead of making the decision to autosave after all the levels or none, the game puts the choice in your hands. How much are you willing to spend to keep your progress? Elements War forces you to put your next quarter on the machine or step away. Except that it doesn’t…
Not only can you choose to start the world over if you’re out of Gold or simply elect to hold onto it, you can also head right over to Chaos Mode. This is the arcade-style, never-ending gameplay that serves as a great way to wrack up Gold while getting used to all the titular elements, even if you haven’t unlocked them in Story Mode. That may be a little confusing, let me explain the game a bit because it’s actually pretty great.
You control elements (duh) - fire, ice, electricity, etc. - and your job is to pop these little colored bubbles. Sounds simple, is relatively simple, but also surprisingly satisfying and at times extremely challenging. Each world introduces a new element, and each element has its own feel and abilities. Their common feature is that the element continues a chain reaction after making contact or popping a bubble (this varies by element), making it possible to destroy dozens of bubbles, even bosses, with no more than 3 tries. Oh yeah, there are bosses. This is cool, at the end of each world there’s a new boss, and the last world is nothing but big guys. These are as varied as the elements, and take different strategies to wipe out - some reincarnate, others split into clones, some just take a ton of damage to pop - all are really tough.
The game does a lot of other little things really well, and a few things not so well, or at least a little confusingly. The sound effects are really fun - popping the bubbles sounds a little like jingle bells exploding, this is weirdly pleasant - and Elements War lets your music override the game’s sound. Also, as well as the game’s economy is balanced, they still confirm every single time you buy a continue. I can’t tell you how many games I’ve played that don’t do this, instead snatching my patience along with bits of IAP.
Where the game has let me down a bit is the UI and timing of things. Every time you beat a level you have to wait while it tallies your points and score to date. The timing and responsiveness of the Restart button could also use some serious work. These seem like minor complaints, and they are, but when you end up playing the first level of a world a couple dozen times, the seconds add up. More importantly, it just feels sloppy in an otherwise highly-polished game. I’ll also say that Elements War seems too reliant on luck or chance. The gameplay focuses on chain reactions, but in my experience, physics and strategy only get you part of the way there. Lastly, Game Center integration would seem to be an obvious feature of a game like this, but Elements War lacks any sort of leaderboard at all. This is a curious omission that would seem fairly easy to resolve in future updates, I’ll keep an eye on it…
Despite a couple really minor flaws and equally negligible complaints, Elements War is a really solid game. It uses an old school mechanic in a really non-slimy way and absolutely crushes the arcade feel. This kind of decision won’t work for every game, but these developers went forward by looking back, and made something totally rad, bro.
Oh yeah, those developers… Elements War was developed by WYN Soft and is available on both iOS and Android for $0.99. The dollar price point might turn some people off, but I can’t overstate the fact that that’s all you’ll ever need to spend, and the game is really pretty fun. The devs have also promised to add more levels, if and when you beat Story Mode, so there should be more value for your purchase if you stick around. Even as it is currently, Chaos Mode provides a lot of replayability and really makes this game a keeper.
Josh Dombro Community Manager
Josh Dombro Community Manager