Spoiler alert! 4 elements raises the stakes for match three games, adding spot the difference and hidden object puzzles—not to mention adding new strategy challenges at every level. If you like these games (and I’m hooked) this is a best buy.
It’s game day Friday, folks have already forgotten the controversy over Exodus International and it’s time for some fun before the issue returns in the upcoming election campaigns as Apple joins Hollywood as an ally in the culture wars on every thing holy and profitable. 4 Elements will deliver just that fun.
4 Elements combines the strategy of matching tiles with hidden object and spot the difference puzzles. Players are challenged to a 64 level quest (plus puzzles) with a narrative thread in which they unlock the spells to heal the earth from man’s destruction.
Players are treated to a number of different puzzles, including four hidden object and 16 spot the different challenges. The hidden object puzzles are pretty good the first time through, but when you replay they get tiresome.
Okay, okay, let’s be honest. Already Republicans are going to whine about the victimization of capitalism and pagan influences on the young. But they’ll also be the first ones to hide their iPads under the covers and play when no one’s watching because this game’s fun.
Players will be visited by an eco-friendly version of Tinkerbell, who’s just different enough from the original to avoid their being sued by Disney for copyright infringement. Tinkergreen will guide you through the subtler elements of the game in a manner that will be annoying to some because she pauses the game just when you’re having fun.
Nevertheless, I would pay attention on the first run through because I blew her off and didn’t figure the key element of the game until I was in the third book (series of levels). I kept winning but I couldn’t figure out why. When I replayed the levels having figured out what was going on the game got a lot easier. Sure enough, I also realized that had I paid attention to the fairy I would have saved a lot of time and puzzlement.
The object of the match levels is to direct the energy flow to the final target by breaking matching adjacent tiles. Some times you need to make matches off the path in order to power up spells that will clear obstacles.
4 Elements isn’t developer Playrix’s first crack at match three iPad games. The Rise of Atlantis, which I haven’t reviewed, provides a more traditional series of layouts and challenges built around the theme of a Mediterranean expedition for objects of magical power. Of the two 4 Elements is far more rewarding to play.
The object of each 4 Elements level is to direct the element’s energy flow to the final target by matching tiles. The maps change with each level and more and more obstacles appear that can’t be broken by matches alone. As with most match three games, certain matches power up spells, but these spells are needed to clear the really tough obstacles.
You will need to direct the energy to missiles to clear out impassible zones. But the missiles may also trigger more missiles that could trigger even more missiles.
Some paths are impassible even with matches. On those levels players have to direct the energy flow to missiles that explode impassible tiles. If you can’t direct the energy to the missiles, you won’t make it to the final target. To make it tougher, you may need to fire some missiles in order to fire the missiles you really need to clear the path.
By the second series of levels you also find yourself racing against the clock in addition to increasingly difficult maps and obstacles. You may have to play a level several times to find the best path.
By the time you reach the top levels, the challenges become extraordinary. On one level you have to clear a path for one energy flow before another flow blocks your way. You will need to clear out close to a hundred tiles in a manner of one or two minutes.
As challenging as 4 Elements is, it remains playable. Should you fail on one level, you can immediately replay. This is quite the opposite other timed games like 10 Talismans (which does have a free play mode) and Playrix’s other match three offering Rise of Atlantis (which does not have a free play mode). In these games players have to replay entire stages when they fail to complete the required number of levels.
When you win, the game indicates a bonus level is available. Don’t be fooled. It’s just a scrolling text epilogue.
That being said, there are a number of major irritants in the games. When you complete a level you can’t simply progress to the next level. You have to return to the game menu and press the start button again. Yes, you get a glance at all of the cards you collected to earn the four elements, but I would rather get on with the game and browse my collection later.
Players who complete the quest are led to believe there is a bonus level. Should you accept, however, you discover it’s little more than a scrolling text epilogue. Plants vs. Zombies does something similar; they deliver a music video with game characters. The video is a lot more rewarding.
My biggest quarrel is with game play once you’ve completed all the levels and won the quest, you still have to replay the auxiliary puzzles even though they never change. In the next upgrade, Playrix needs to add a “skip puzzle” button, at least for players who completed the quest.
Jenny Manytoes rates 4 Elements
Jenny Manytoes would make biscuits all over 4 Elements. It’s a definite best buy.