Licence-free games from Ocean are about as rare as someone winning the car on Bullseye, but when the Manchester Maestros do pop up from behind their movie and coin-op cover, the results are often better than the games with famous names on the boxes.
This arcade adventure, programmed and developed by Nirvana Systems (see the Work In Progress in Issue 30) is just such a case. Its basic format isn't new by any means, but it's just about as good an example of the type as you're likely to see, incorporating many of the best ideas from previous games of the style and adding just enough new ones to keep the pot boiling.
The story is about the most hackneyed part of the whole package though. Your character, a young Elf called Cornelius, takes it upon himself to fight through eight hostile environments to rescue his girlfriend, Elisa. This poor unfortunate creature has been kidnapped by the unspeakable Dark Lord, a mad scientist who whiles away the hours in his ghastly forbidding castle high above the elves' village by performing cruel experiments on any unfortunate creature who comes into his grasp.
To help him get on top of things, Cornelius is wearing the magic ring which has been passed down through countless generations of his family. At first this only fires a basic spell, but it can be upgraded at the many magician's shops (you didn't know that most magicians are shopkeepers, did you?), where the pint-sized adventurer can also turn himself into a hero (which means that all shots bounce off him) or a wolf (so that he can fall any distance) and pick up countless other aids - as long as he has the right cash of course.
Don't take too long browsing though, Elisa is at this moment being lowered into a vat of some disgusting bubbling chemical - and what's more... the Dark Lord's laughing his head off.
A GOOD ARCADE ADVENTURE is a joy to play - unfortunately you could count the amount of good arcade adventures that have been released in recent times on the fingers of one of foot. Thankfully, Elf puts this situation right. OK, so the actual gameplay isn't going to win 1991's Most Original Game Idea award (if such a thing exists), but as long as the gameplay's there, then total originality isn't absolutely essential -and there's no shortage of gameplay here. If exploring and shooting's your thing, then there's enough here to keep you happy 'til the cows come home (and even until they've been milked and sent back out again), however if you thirst for a little more depth, then follow me. In order to get the most out of Elf, the puzzle-solving element is at least as important as the action (if not more, it's difficult to decide). And while the puzzles range from the childishly simple to the infuriatingly obscure, there are enough hints dotted around to allow you to complete every one. In fact, some of the levels are almost completely puzzle- or maze-based (one fiendish section sees you tackle the problem of getting a series of moving platforms to move just the way you want them to, no easy task) while others increase the carnage to compensate. And If I've given the impression that there are no new ideas at all in here I apologise -how about these for starters? Whenever you die, a gravestone appears in that spot from then on to mourn you. Then, if you pass that way again, chances are that your own ghost will rise up to have a pop, also the option to only save the game at the end of each level means that cheating is more or less out of the question. It's a pity that you can only have either music or sound effects playing at any one time (apparently, this is due to Ocean France's custom-built sound software), but the fact that that's the only real fault I can come up with speaks volumes.
You take the part of Cornelius the Elf (hence the title) who must rescue his beloved Elisa from the clutches of the said Necrilous-The-Not-So-Nice. Just by the first look at the name of the bad guy you know you can expect some good laughs. And you might get just that!
Elf is a platform game with some adventure elements. The creatures you meet on screen are divided into two type: Goodies (rabbits, gnomes etc.) and Baddies (soldiers and monsters). Killing Baddies is good and will boost your score and energy but killing Goodies will cause a Boo! or a Hiss! to appear on screen and will effect your end of game rating.
Cornelius is armed with just a ring, which fires energy bolts and must interact and trade with the various people he meets along the way in order to progress. Progressing is mostly just a matter of, for example, picking up some birdseed, giving it to a bird, picking up a feather from it, giving that to an Indian, who gives you something else, etc. That is about as difficult as the puzzles get.
Overall, Elf is a standard platformer but there are a lot of neat scenarios, the graphics and sound are very good and - it's very enjoyable to play! It's not terribly difficult but it should keep you occupied for a while. You might even come back to it - definitely worth a look.
A "nothing special" platform game, with poor graphics and sound. It's very old. You have to move your Elf guy and beware of the enemies and barriers. Typical...
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