Elliot’s Quest, released to Playstation 4 May 9th 2017, is an 8-bit retro action-adventure game straight out of the mid-80’s. Players take control of the titular hero Elliot, about whom very little is known. Armed with nothing more than a short range bow and arrow; Elliot must explore, navigate and survive a series of side scrolling dungeons and gauntlets. Pitched against a myriad of monsters including goblins, skeletons, giant floating eyes, bats, frogs, and miscellaneous purple blobs, Elliot must conquer the 5 dungeons and defeat each of the 16 unique bosses that block his path.
In the beginning, Elliot’s abilities are very much limited to running, jumping and firing arrows and though this game is easy to pick up, becoming skilled is a slow developing process. Elliot’s Quest is both side-scroller and platformer, each new dungeon and environment offering various different paths within as well as locked doors that force the player to backtrack, explore and in some cases find what they need to continue (special keys make a comeback in a big way). Every stretch of exploration is as tense as the last as this title, like so many before, features no manual save and the player must instead delve further and survive to find the next checkpoint save. A refreshingly familiar formula that has been mostly missing in modern gaming.
As players continue to persevere through these levels, a little more of the story is revealed through flashbacks into Elliot’s dark and murky past. The player quickly discovers that shortly following the disappearance of Elliot’s wife, and his own attempt to commit suicide, Elliot discovers that he cannot die. Seeking the help of a Sage, it transpires that he has been the victim of a terrible curse put upon him by a Satar, a demon that slowly drains at Elliot’s vitality. All the while plagued by nightmares, Elliot must seek the help of an island Guardian to find the cure to this curse before he transforms into a Satar forever.
The real charm in this game comes from its clear tribute to the titles that have influenced it; any seasoned players worth their salt will instantly recognise such titles as Zelda 2, Metroid, Super Mario, Castlevania and many more behind the development. Elliot’s Quest is a title we didn’t know we wanted, bringing these classic 80’s dungeon crawling, side-scrolling, platforming legends back into the spotlight in this amalgamation that does true justice to all of the above.
It’s a joy to play, exactly as fidelic and clunky as the games of old. Complete with a simple yet elegant Level Up and combat system, easy to navigate and yet infuriating at times in the purest way as the player grinds over the same boss. Its animation and art style is impressive for its simplicity but not within it, as the pixelated backdrops and environments of each level are as beautiful as the last. Every boss fight feels refreshed and new, at no point seeming like a tedious repeat of some previous foe, and the various spells and new abilities gifted to the player as reward open entire new avenues of play and exploration of previously unreachable plains.
So, the verdict? Easily the best looking, most enjoyable and most faithful rendition of a retro action-adventure going. Colourful yet dark, fun yet melancholy and rewarding in all the right places. If the interesting story doesn’t keep you hooked, the simple act of play will keep you coming back for more. A simple and yet masterful game that feels inviting and nothing like a chore to return to, in fact it’s a pleasure.