Obsessed as many are with dwarves, gnomes, unicorns and other fey creatures, it’s no wonder fantasy themes permeate so many casual game titles. Thankfully, there’s always room for one more when we’re talking about clever outings like Elven Mists 2, an intriguing puzzler that piles on the otherworldly charm.
Albeit a tad repetitious, and the sort of New Age mysticism-heavy offering that’ll surely rub some the wrong way, there’s still enough challenge, and improvements over the original, available here to make the interactive tale worth trying.
Per a storyline that starts out simple, then turns convoluted through the use of various mid-mission interludes introducing a host of new personalities and settings, a shadow has fallen over the land of Desu. Elves, who bring light to the realm, are mysteriously falling asleep in their petals, demanding that someone – namely, you – discover a way to wake them again.
Enter a clever blend of logic and luck that requires you lay down randomly-generated blocks of varying color, divided into Tetris-type configurations (e.g. straight lines, L-shaped layouts and wedges), atop flower-encased allies. Manage to connect pathways of similarly-hued squares between the power nodes that dot each stage – backgrounds consist of grids divided into individual tiles dressed as verdant landscapes filled with twinkling foliage – and any interconnected tiles fill with energy. At that time, all electrified blocks disappear, and (go figure) any elves overlapped by your crisscrossing tracks are freed from their prisons to escape into the ether.
Ironically for a title that’s more brainpower-fueled than anything else though, there’s a surprising amount of characterization on display. Each additional stop-off brings a new introduction in terms of supporting personalities, from soldiers to monks and janitors, all beautifully sketched and presented.
And while we can’t say that it’s possible to really follow the plot that well after the gorgeous animated storybook-style intro, newspaper-type notices and postcards filled with attractive sketches do help keep underlying themes top of mind. To wit, much more so than in the title’s predecessor, there’s an actual script tying everything together here, even if it’s not the most accessible fable we’ve yet to enjoy.
On a positive note, expect lots to see and do here, with two modes – story and time – and 120 levels featured, all of which will take some significant time to plow through. A wider array of obstacles and bonuses from troublesome tree stumps which much be removed by making matches next to them to collectible pots of gold and blocks which morph to assume nearby tiles’ coloring is also highlighted. Music quality is superb as well, with showcased tunes proving both haunting and catchy, helping reinforce the outing’s overall magical feel.
Still, it’s not like laying down exploding pomegranates and flaming squares or methodically clearing one’s way through obstacle-strewn courses is exactly riveting stuff. Frankly, even the presence of an ever-ticking timer, and bonus stages that let you attempt to collect plants by fitting random blocks into available holes, do little to alleviate the tedium that inevitably sets in.
Best enjoyed during leisurely downtime when you’re in the mood for a solid challenge and have hours to burn, it’s the sort of game that’s slow to simmer, but never reaches a rollicking boil. The further one progresses, the more aggravation that’s inherent too, as scenarios involve increasing numbers of hard-to-reach targets and intervening hurdles. A couple dozen stages in, you’ll already find yourself taking deep breaths, praying it won’t be necessary to repeat the level. It’s not that the title is hard to enjoy – rather, just the sort that relies on basic conundrums and a general air of wonderment, not arresting action, to keep audiences hooked.
Should the prospect sound engaging, don’t hesitate: Elven Mists 2 is a welcome breath of fresh air that adroitly picks up where its predecessor left off. However, if the prospect of an interactive bedtime story seems just that – a guaranteed sleep aid – avoid in equal measure, lest all that fairy dust go to one’s head.