Elliot Quest is probably the closest game to Zelda II that you’re going to get on Xbox One, only swap out the adolescent Hylian for someone much more like Kid Icarus, and you’re good to go. Although the game has already been available on other platforms for a number of years, this new iteration is being referred to as the definitive version of the game. Why? Well, on top of all of the original content, you’re getting special collectables, multiple save slots, achievements / trophies, localisation in English, French, Italian, German and Spanish, and if you plan on picking this up for the 3DS, you can play in 3D. Not bad, right? So how well does this game sit a few years post original release?
You take on the role of Elliot, a man who has fell ill since the disappearance of his wife Cara. Riddled with pain and self loathing, Elliot decides to take his own life via nose diving off the edge of a cliff. Surprisingly enough he manages to survive the huge fall, only to find out that he cannot die. In fact Elliot just so happens to be under the curse of a demon (which explains the illness) and if he doesn’t find a cure soon, he’s screwed.
Elliot Quest is pitched as a 2D platform adventure with some minor (very minor) RPG aspects. You’ll be traversing through side-scrolling levels that interlock with a world map. On top of each of the levels that are dotted all over the map, you’ll also be able to find other places of interest, a band of dungeons, and roaming enemies that you can engage with. The overall aim of the game is to obtain the elemental powers from each of the dungeons and their respective bosses, however progress and entry to many of the dungeons is often restricted until you’ve either overcome specific requirements, or solved one of the many somewhat simplistic puzzles within.
These restrictions are plentiful and can range from needing bombs to blow up rock solid barriers, to wings that grant you the ability to jump higher than usual. Every single level has hidden areas that you can access with specific tools, which really helps to throw a layer of replay value into the mix. The game comes with no shortage of foes, each of which vary in size, defence, and strength. You’ll be taking on foes such as insects, skeletons, knights, and much more. Many of these enemies come with their own traits and abilities, but it doesn’t take much observation to suss out their movements and find out where their weak points are. That’s one of my few gripes about Elliot Quest, I cant say that I found any of the enemies (or even the combat itself) to be overly tough. That’s an oddity for a game that tries to rub shoulders with titles from the retro-years. Those games were hard, this on the other hand is like a walk in the park in comparison.
Before you obtain any extra abilities or equipment, your only tool is a bow and arrow. At first this is sufficient enough to see you through the primary levels, but if you don’t keep on top of your progression system to buff it up, you’ll regret it sooner than later. At first the bow and arrow doesn’t have a great deal of damage or range, but as you kill enemies and earn XP to level up, you can take advantage of the upgrade system. The upgrades cover a collection of different traits, strength, wisdom, agility, vitality, and accuracy. Elliot is pretty fragile and useless at first but as you proceed further into the experience, you’ll begin to achieve better skills. That crappy bow and arrow soon becomes a lethal killing machine when you can power-shoot your enemies and gain better range and damage. Magic abilities and other powerful weapons do eventually pop up as you play, but by that time I had bonded far too much with the bow and arrow to put them down.
Comparing this once again to Zelda II, Elliot Quest barely holds your hand. You’re given almost no direction as to where you should be heading next, and although you can pick up some subtle tips from the villagers in nearby settlements, no one truly ever pinpoints precisely where you need to be. Checkpoints are few and far between and due to Elliot only having a very limited health bar, it pays off to play as carefully as possible. You constantly need to be alert of your immediate surroundings and the enemies that occupy that space. I stated that combat is easy, but that’s not to say that Elliot Quest wont hand your backside to you if you stumble upon a nest of baddies that can shoot projectiles and home in on you.
With that being said, this game does become quite grindy in the long run. When you make it into the second half of the game the enemies don’t really stay on par with you, but instead tower over you in terms of stats. It’s here where I almost felt forced to visit previously visited areas to tackle easier enemies just to gain the XP I needed to safely make it through the later stages of play. This wouldn’t normally be much of a bother, but the amount of time spent grinding was well over 90 minutes before I felt comfortable enough to move on. The game comes with multiple endings based on actions and decisions you make in the game. I wont spoil or unravel any story threads, but what I will say is that you never truly know what decision forced a specific outcome or consequence. This makes it hard to nail down what you have done (to make different decisions in other runs) if you want to work towards all of the endings.
There’s plenty of side quests to jump on if you’re hoping for a game with longevity, and with the added replay value mentioned before there’s no reason why you cant get several sessions out of Elliot Quest. Visually this isn’t going to drop your jaw but the classic 8-bit graphics and pixel art do push forward some impressive and diverse environments. The soundtrack also suits the theme and design of the game exceptionally well, capturing that Zelda-esque vibe, only nowhere near matching it. Mercifully I can gladly say that I didn’t witness a single technical issue throughout the entirety of play. No frame rate drops, no crashing, nothing. It runs as smooth as can be.
Elliot Quest is a great game for those of you that enjoy a challenging platform adventure that does very little to aid you from beginning to end. There’s plenty of content and a decent portion of replay value to entice you in for repeat sessions. Unfortunately the combat is (for the most part) overly simplistic until you’re over half way through, at which point you’re forced to grind for a good length of time before you can progress. Nevertheless this should scratch that nostalgic itch you have for retro 2D adventures, and then some. Group that with a good soundtrack, multiple endings, and a straight forward level / progression system, and you have little reason to overlook this experience.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.