Elliot Quest

words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by Ansimuz Games for PC, Mac, Linux, Wii U, 3DS, and Ouya, originally released in 2014.
Elliot Quest stars a young man named Elliot who must travel across an expansive island filled with dangers and treasures in order to seek the help of the Guardians. After his wife Cara disappears, Elliot finds himself growing weaker and eventually decides to commit suicide by leaping off a cliff, only to learn that he is incapable of dying. As it turns out, a demon is consuming Elliot’s life force, and if he doesn’t put a stop to it, he will become a demon himself.

The world consists of a large overworld map dotted with villages, caves, and ruins, which appear in a variety of visual themes. The world map is navigated from an overhead perspective, while the landmark locations take the form of sidescrolling environments. Most of these consist of small areas to explore, but there are several large dungeons as well, and more than a dozen bosses to fight. In addition, enemies roam certain parts of the overworld, and touching one transports the player into a small enemy-filled area with exits on either side.

Elliot begins his journey with a 1.5x nonvariable jump and the ability to fire an infinite number of projectiles from his bow and arrow, although he reloads slowly. In an uncommon twist, Elliot’s arrows are affected by gravity, and they arc downward when fired, giving him a shorter range and requiring that he jump in order to hit distant targets. However, by killing enemies, Elliot is able to gain experience and level up, and various upgrades reduce the effect of gravity and increase his firing rate. In addition the player is able to unlock a charge shot that is more powerful and unaffected by gravity. Other upgrades include health and magic regeneration, increased chances for a critical hit, and the chance to increase the effectiveness of health and magic pickups.

Elliot’s exploration is only limited by his abilities. He is free to move to any point on the world map and enter any location, but he may find his path blocked by obstacles that he is unable to overcome, such as a large gap or a set of stone blocks. However, these areas may be revisited once Elliot gains the abilities needed to get past these obstacles. In this way, the game falls squarely in the metroidvania category… but some limitations to the map system can make it more difficult for the player to determine where he needs to go next.

Rather than providing a single interconnected map, the game offers separate town and dungeon locations that must be accessed via the overworld. The player is able to enter any area that causes an exclamation mark to appear over Elliot’s head, but not all locales are marked on the map. This can add some confusion when the player gains a new ability but he can’t reach the proper area on the overworld without entering and exiting multiple locations until he finds it. In addition, NPC's rarely offer any assistance with pointing the player in the right direction, so he is left to experiment on his own.

This lack of direction may frustrate players who are accustomed to being continuously led by the nose, but it harkens back to earlier adventures in The Legend of Zelda series where the player was more or less left on his own when it came to exploring the world, making it very much possible to take on dungeons out of sequence, miss certain key items, or enter dangerous areas whilst woefully underequipped.

Elliot Quest offers a great deal of content to those players wishing to thoroughly explore the world, including areas blocked off until the player has gathered enough tough-to-reach gems, as well as several mysterious artifacts to be discovered and a number of optional boss encounters. However, the metroidvania structure also means that players will need to remain diligent about keeping track of where they have been and which areas need to be further explored.

Adding to the complexity of navigation is a dungeon map system that shows individual rooms but not doorways. As such, it is not possible for the player to tell which rooms directly connect with one another or which doors have yet to be opened. Dungeon exits aren’t marked either, so you may find yourself wandering aimlessly if you get turned around, and dungeons can be quite large. Unlike the typical Zelda dungeons, those in Elliot Quest are not self-contained, so it’s possible that a portion of the dungeon will not be accessible with your current skillset, leaving you to return later once you have earned the requisite abilities.

The basic structure of the game’s item system is very much influenced by the Legend of Zelda series. Players will locate a shield that allows them to block projectiles when not moving or attacking, potions that may be purchased to allow health and magic restoration, and a health bar represented by hearts that may be permanently upgraded by finding heart pieces and heart containers.

Dungeons require the use of small keys to open locked doors and a big key to open the boss room door, and the each dungeon contains a map item that shows an outline of all of the rooms as well as the location of the boss. The player may use bombs only after he has discovered a bomb bag, and bomb bags may be upgraded for a higher carrying capacity.

Additional items include wings that allow Elliot to double jump, a candle that lets him light lanterns in dark dungeons, a feather that allows him to warp back to the world map, a talisman that allows him to push certain blocks, boots that allow him to bounce off enemies’ heads, and fairies that can be used to explore the area and take control of certain statues and suits of armor. Most of these abilities allow for increased environmental navigation that let Elliot to return to previously explored locations to reach otherwise inaccessible areas.

Killing enemies and breaking vases reveals health-restoring hearts, magic-restoring orbs, and coins. Unlike the games in the Legend of Zelda series – which often see the player carrying more money than he could ever possibly spend – money is difficult to come by in Elliot Quest, and it is very much needed in order to make progress. Coins appear as infrequent drops from enemies and vases, and they occasionally appear as loose pickups in the environment, but collecting gold one coin at a time is slow work.

However, spread around the world (and often hidden behind false walls) are treasure chests that allow Elliot to fill his coffers more quickly, and once the player locates the blue key, he may unlock chests that hold even more gold. Money is needed in order to purchase armor and arrow upgrades and much-needed bombs. Bombs are extremely rare to find as pickups in the environment, and it can be frustrating to fight your way halfway into a dungeon only to find yourself up against a destructible wall with an empty bomb bag.

Magic is key to making progress as well, and new spells are doled out slowly over the course of the adventure. The player gains his first spell upon defeating a wind-based boss that can spin around like a tornado. In the player’s hands, this magic is quite useful, allowing Elliot to kill swarms of small enemies instantly, stun medium-sized enemies, absorb projectiles, and even pull coins and vases toward him. In addition, Elliot is able to spin dash through rows of shrubberies to cross gaps and ride wind currents to fly high into the air. Another is a fire spell that allows Elliot to light torches (often acting as switches to operate doors), burn up stacks of wooden crates, and cause straight-line damage to distant enemies.

Enemies come in a variety of forms that require the player to change up his strategies frequently. Some enemies can be defeated directly by simply filling them full of arrows, while others are shielded and can only be harmed from a certain direction, and still others reveal their weak points for a limited time. A number of enemies must be used for environmental navigation as well, including a number of crustacean foes whose shelled carcasses may be used to reach higher platforms or sailed across dangerous waters.

While Elliot is technically cursed with the inability to die, he meets his end in a very similar way to other gaming heroes. Namely, losing all of your health returns you to the most recent checkpoint with three hearts restored. As an added penalty, the player loses some XP upon death. From a narrative standpoint, checkpoints are explained to be objects placed in the world to prevent Elliot from ending his life before the demon can finish consuming his life force.

Checkpoints appear as stone blocks with areas that turn blue when activated, and these must be activated manually by the player. There is no auto-save upon exiting to the world map or entering a new area, so it’s very much possible to get killed in one area and find yourself back in a dungeon at the last activated checkpoint. Checkpoints appear infrequently in dungeons, often only appearing at the entrance and at one or two additional points within the dungeon, so the player must remain careful to avoid taking unnecessary risks.

The game’s narrative unfolds a bit at a time as the player slowly opens up new areas for exploration. This sometimes happens with text appearing onscreen as Elliot explores a dungeon, and occasionally as cutscenes in darkened areas with a mysterious stranger. The player may also interact with NPC’s in various towns, although the dialogue here is mostly added for flavor rather than exposition. In addition, the player occasionally engages in conversation with enemy characters, and the game offers three different endings depending on the decisions that Elliot makes along the way.

Elliot Quest was developed by Ansimuz Games, a studio based in Mexico that was founded by Luis Zuno in 2013. Luis was the designer, programmer and artist for the game, music was provided by Michael Chait, and the story was written by Danny Homan. This was the studio’s first commercial release.