Building a kingdom is a tough gig. After all, you have to match all those tiles, unscramble those pictures and build production facilities in less than two seconds. Okay, it’s not necessarily tough, but it sure is fun, and The Enchanted Kingdom: Elisa’s Adventure is definitely fun if not deep.
In the kingdom of Arroyo, the King is looking for someone to take the throne when he is gone. The one who finds the Royal Ruby will inherit the kingdom. Rian, the royal scholar, believes he has found the heir to the kingdom in a peasant girl named Elisa. Elisa, without batting an eyelash, goes off with him to find the Royal Ruby, bringing peace and prosperity in her wake as she solves problems from one land to the next. With the help of bumbling mage Maron, the trio work to set right all the issues of the population, though they may not be what they think.
The story, while amazingly predictable, is filled with lovely touches. For example, one town is afraid of a giant squid that has washed ashore. Elisa, using a magic bracelet to speak to him, realizes he is scared and wants to go back out to see. Another has her helping a dragon who just has heartburn, which is why he’s burping fire. Sure, it’s light, but it makes the story more believable as Elisa increases her renown.
However, no game would exist without its gameplay, and The Enchanted Kingdom: Elisa’s Adventure delivers solid, varied gameplay. In order to rebuild the towns, Elisa travels from location to location on a world map, collecting resources and building new production facilities to complete a set of tasks in each land. To collect resources, Elisa plays two basic kinds of puzzle games. Either creating a chain of three or more tiles or swapping tile match-three gameplay to break gold tiles underneath, Elisa is able to rebuild each town.
The chain building is simple if uninspired. Making matches of four or more adds coins which can be collected to buy items at stores, while making multiple matches in a row builds a meter that awards various power-ups. These include traditional tile breakers, cluster bombs or breaking whole columns or rows. Again, you’ve played it before, but it’s still fun.
The swapping, on the other hand, is a chore. The levels aren’t vertical but V-shaped. So when tiles are cleared, they sort of fall in two directions simultaneously. “Sort of” if only because if you can understand the gravitational pulls in these levels, you are a better player than I. These levels suffer particularly from the “one more tile in the corner to break” problem typical of match-threes. Thankfully, an abundance of power-ups helps alleviate this slightly, but why the levels have to be “unique” when it becomes frustrating is confusing.
Other levels, like talking to animals or helping Maron, add different challenges. A decent hidden-object section, word puzzle or jigsaw puzzle is a welcome variation. Again, these are not necessarily spectacular, but are solid and well-done. A generous hint system ensures nobody will get stuck, but know that no game is skippable.
Once the raw materials are collected, they can be processed further. Logs can turn into boards, ore can turn into metal bars, and coal can become bricks. Obviously, it takes more raw materials to make processed goods, and those good are required to complete each land. But if you’re at all low, you can press a “Play” button on the map, and Elisa will go to wherever she needs to go next.
The Enchanted Kingdom: Elisa’s Adventure is always pretty both visually and aurally. The detailed, cartoony graphic have lots of personality, and the soundtrack is medieval, lush and orchestral. The presentation is only marred during the cutscenes, when the music mysteriously stops playing and the characters become two-dimensional paper figures that disappear when they turn. Add in the occasional typo (“Your our new mayor!”) and it’s a bit of a disappointment,
In the end, The Enchanted Kingdom: Elisa’s Adventure ends up being a mixed bag. The graphics and sound, variety of gameplay and fun story are all very compelling reasons to play. Some of the more frustrating elements, unskippable minigames and low-quality cutscenes drag down an otherwise fine game. It’s definitely worth checking out the demo and see if you become enchanted by Elisa.