In a genre as crowded as the match-3 puzzler, it’s surprising that Elementum is able to inject a bit of new life into this old formula. By melding it with a bit of marble shooter sensibilities and a hefty dose of physics, Elementum finds new ground to tread. However, some issues with pacing and a low overall difficulty level hold it back from greatness.
The plot of the game is actually somewhat interesting. You begin the game as an alchemist who has been charged with the task of succeeding where all of history’s greatest alchemists have failed: creating the ultimate element, the spark of life itself. So you set out to master all of the known elements, to distill them to their purest forms.
It’s not exactly War and Peace of course, but it gives you a setup that fits well with the gameplay. With a bit of suspension of disbelief you could actually feel like you were manipulating an element.
The point of most levels is to clear all of the particles from the board. In standard match-3 fashion, you can only clear them by matching three or more of the same color. You can either fire normal particles which knock other particles out of the way (like billiard balls they will keep traveling and knocking others around until one eventually escapes the board or is caught by you.) Or you can use one of your spare particles to magnetically latch onto a group. As the levels progress this theme gets more and more complex. Teleporters and color-coded barriers are introduced, along with a host of other obstacles which make your job more difficult.
By and large these additions to gameplay are added with a good sense of progression throughout the game. Just as you’re mastering one type of challenge, new ones are introduced.
The moment-to-moment gameplay is quite fun too. Elementum combines the critical thinking of its match-3 roots, and combines it with precision skill-shooting. Each shot not only needs to be carefully thought out, but also angled properly so that the ricochet doesn’t accidentally dislodge any unintended particles. And while all of this is going on, you also need to be positioning your shooting-device (controlled with the mouse) to catch whichever particle gets bounced out of the play area. Obviously, Elementum is a lot more high-involvement that other games of its ilk.
There are a few nagging issues, however, that weigh Elementum down. First and foremost, the difficulty progression is very odd. Rather than a steady upswing in challenge, the game is prone to huge difficulty spikes. Given the ability to skip levels (a limited number of times) that’s not too big of an issue though. The bigger problem is that some levels throughout the game are devoid of any difficulty at all. These seem like tacked-on filler material. The overall difficulty isn’t very high either. The action is fun, but experienced puzzle gamers will likely breeze through this without much trouble.
Elementum is a good puzzle game, but not a great one. It’s adds some interesting twists, and introduces a bit of action to a traditionally slow-paced genre. For a low-budget indie production this is a solid puzzler, but hardcore puzzle addicts might find the game too easy in places.