Indie games can be imaginative, creative, and display how a small team of dedicated people can create a memorable gaming experience. These types of games can be very innovative, yet many do seem to draw influence from titles that came before them. This doesn’t mean they are any less creative. In fact, some games can take original ideas and mold them into something new — a hybrid of sorts. In Ansimuz Games’ recent release, Elliot Quest, it is very clear that the developers drew from The Legend of Zelda series, specifically Zelda II. Does Elliot Quest live up to the standards that the franchise from which it draws from has set?

EQ Gameplay 1There are many references to titles like The Legend of Zelda found in Elliot Quest

Visuals — 8.25/10

The official summary for the game states it is an “8-bit retro adventure game.” The visuals clearly reflect this in a way that is both charming and pays homage to the gaming days of the past. Elliot Quest is a side-scrolling adventure/platformer with a large overworld that is made for exploration, and it’s all done in wonderful fashion.

With games in this specific type of genre, the visual flare and appeal can become boring and drab very quickly. More often than not, 8-bit games become more reliant on nostalgia in both gameplay and visuals, but thankfully Elliot Quest doesn’t fall into this trap. The game uses something that is a must for an adventure game like this: colors. The color palette in the game is well used with a broad variety of delightful colors. This usage helps to give each environment its own feel and uniqueness.

EQ Gameplay 4Some monster designs are well done, like this boss, while others are a bit lacking

The overworld uses bright blues for the oceans, olive greens for forests, yellow-greens for vast fields, as well as many other colors. Forest levels are heavy with deep browns and different shades of greens. Towns display white and brown houses and bright green grass, all set on a backdrop filled with white clouds in a baby blue sky. The colors are plentiful, placed in the correct places, and create a unique visual flavor that helps to make the title stand out amongst other games in the same genre.

Where the color usage and art direction in Elliot Quest shine, the character designs are somewhat lacking. Don’t get me wrong though — the character designs do a sufficient job for the game and there are enough different characters to keep the player interested and engaged. With a game like this, inspired by 8-bit games of time past, the character designs (specifically the monsters/enemies) have to be very unique to stand out. The visual designs for enemies are a little inconsistent, and it shows throughout the adventure. For instance, in one section towards the beginning of the game, some floating eyes follow you across the map, trying to trap and injure you. These are well-done designs. However, in the same area there were bland statues that shot fire and metallic contraptions that slid back and forth — they weren’t as inspired.

Overall though, I was very pleased with the visuals in Elliot Quest thanks to the brilliant usage of colors, decent utilization of the 8-bit aesthetic, and very smooth animations.

EQ Gameplay 2The overworld composition matches its grandiose feel

Audio — 9.25/10

This was my favorite aspect of Elliot Quest. The music is fresh and creative without relying too much on nostalgia. It is a great homage to older games — I could swear a couple of songs reminded me of Zelda II and A Link to the Past — and adds upon the great sounds those compositions established in the 8-bit era.

What truly sold me on the music in this game was that each composition matched its respective area/level perfectly. Not once did I come across a song that took me out of the game, nor did I feel anything was out of place. The overworld music is grandiose, mimicking the epic world the player can explore and venture through. The wooded levels had a much more “natural” tone to them, the various ruins contained ethereal tunes, while villages/towns were home to bustling crowds with bustling music. I was very impressed with the music in Elliot Quest and how the composer was able to fully utilize the retro sounds at his/her disposal.

The general audio in the game is nicely done as well. The sounds are on point, with the “swish” of an arrow, the “crash” of a vase breaking, the “thunk” of an arrow bouncing off of an armored enemy, and even Elliot’s grunts (which resemble Link’s from the Zelda series) adding to the fantasy world within the game.

There is a decent amount of variety between compositions, a nice amount of both music and audio cues, and a great utilization of the 8-bit sound overall.

EQ Gameplay 3

Gameplay — 8.5/10

“The game focuses greatly on exploration and discovery”

Elliot Quest plays very much like a “Metroid-vania” game; a combination between older Metroid and Castlevania titles. The player traverses through “blocks” on a map — all in 2D — with options to go up, down, left, or right. The game focuses greatly on exploration and discovery, having the player search for “master” keys (just like Zelda, right?), special rooms, and other various upgrades and key items.

This is where the gameplay shines, as the exploration is very enjoyable and does a great job of immersing the player into the fantasy world in which Elliot lives. I spent much of my time simply looking around and trying to fully reveal the entire map in each area. This is very important in a game like Elliot Quest, as it adds to the main quest and helps lengthen the game experience.

Something else I found to be very appealing about the gameplay was that exploration was not only rewarded, but was almost necessary in order to continue on in the game. Levels and monsters get much harder (there was one spot involving some “cannons” in a small corridor that had me stuck for a good 15 minutes or so), so going out of your way to search for special areas is a must. When looking for money and other valuables, you level Elliot up by defeating enemies along the way. This opens up a nice RPG element to the game, giving the player freedom to upgrade Elliot as he or she sees fit.

EQ Gameplay 6Leveling up and upgrading attributes adds a nice RPG element to the gameplay

There are five different attributes to upgrade per level-up: strength, wisdom, agility, vitality, and accuracy. Each of these greatly helps to progress through the game, and leveling up is key. What I found to be both interesting and frustrating is that whenever you die in Elliot Quest, you are revived at the last checkpoint you crossed and lose all current XP. This was intriguing because it was a nice way to add difficulty, consequences to death (which will most assuredly happen in this title), and left the traditional “Do you want to continue?” gameplay mechanic. In this aspect, it was fresh and I admired it. As much as I respected it though, it was more frustrating than anything.

There were multiple times I had built up my XP, only to lose massive amounts of it due to dying. If I had kept my experience, even with dying, I could’ve leveled up and not spent so much time lingering on difficult sections I needed to get past. The game has a decent difficulty curve throughout the entirety of the experience, making it both challenging and enjoyable, but this method slowed down pacing at various points in the adventure.

Other than my complaint about XP loss at death, the gameplay is tight, solid, and fits the 8-bit adventure genre nicely. The developers did an excellent job conveying the old-school feel of NES titles while at the same time translating the gameplay mechanics to today’s standards when compared to current games.

EQ Gameplay 5

Entertainment Factor — 9/10

A game may not be perfect in other categories (visuals, audio, and gameplay), but still might manage to entertain me and bring me back for more. Elliot Quest not only excelled in the other categories, but was a thoroughly entertaining experience as well.

With many older NES titles, story wasn’t as prevalent as it seems to be in today’s games. There were a select few titles with rather deep storylines, and Elliot Quest manages to fit into these ranks quite nicely. The story in Elliot Quest won’t necessarily blow you away, but it tells its story in an engaging and thoughtful manner. Flashbacks, mysterious figures, and surprisingly deep dialogue help to propel the story forward and keeps the player coming back for more.

EQ Gameplay 7Elliot embarks on his quest for truth, looking for items to help along the way

Elliot is sick yet cannot die (which plays into the death/XP loss factor I spoke about in the gameplay section), and on top of that, he has lost someone very dear to him. Due to his tragic circumstances, he has even attempted suicide, jumping off of a cliff because of his depression. This led to a startling discovery: Elliot is unable to die.

So what is an undying, depressed adventurer to do? Seek out help from higher powers. This is what fuels the player to move forward and is the motivation that begins this epic journey. Don’t let the art direction in Elliot Quest deceive you: it has some very mature themes running throughout the storyline. I won’t spoil anything, as I truly enjoyed the story of the game, but know this: Elliot Quest will have you wanting to finish the game and discover the truth behind Elliot and his unique predicament.

“Elliot Quest will have you wanting to finish the game and discover the truth”

This title is a fantasy game to the core and stands proud in that fact. The developers were confident in their game and created a polished, enchanting world with a familiar, well-told story. The bottom line is I had a lot of fun with Elliot Quest.

Elliot Quest Logo

Elliot Quest is an adventure worth taking, even with its few flaws. The death/XP mechanic may frustrate some gamers and slow the pacing down in certain areas, and the monster designs (outside of a few bosses and general monsters) are a little bland. However, the other aspects of the game overshadow these flaws, providing a game experience that I found to be incredibly entertaining. I recommend Elliot Quest to anyone looking for a solid adventure title to dive into for a decent amount of time, exploring some mature themes in a contrasting visual style. Elliot Quest is out on Steam right now and will be making its way to Wii U sometime next year.

Overall — 8.75/10

Editor’s note: Thank you Ansimuz Games for giving us the opportunity to review this game.