Gotta catch 'em all! El-é-bits!
Elebits: The Adventures of Kai and Zero is a classic case of confused identity, struggling to do too many things at once. In addition to the inherent element of Elebit collection, there's a 2D Zelda-esque world to explore mixed in with obscure puzzle-solving elements and item collecting to top it all off. Although Elebits: The Adventures of Kai and Zero is a good game which combines unique concepts, colorful worlds, and a charming story, a more focused approach would have made it great.
The title continues where its predecessor, Elebits, left off. Players came to learn at the end of the first title that the Elebits were acting strangely due to the presence of an Omega Elebit. Kai (the story's protagonist) captured the Omega, befriended him, and named him Zero. This second installment begins with Zero discovering a magical bus of Kai's father's creation. The bus accidentally charges up and activates, sending Kai and Zero reeling into another universe. Players must guide the bus, named Gigi, through many universes in order to return Kai and Zero home.
Upon entering a new universe, players have a few moments to explore and acquaint themselves with the world before encountering a denizen who asks Kai for help in aiding their world. As each denizen initially explains their troubles to Kai they will mention particular Omega Elebits that inhabit the universe. They even mark their location on Kai's map, which is featured on the top screen of the DS. In exchange for Kai and Zero's help, the denizens promise to award them with a map to another new universe. Later in the game, players gain the ability to revisit previous areas.
Initially, the only power Kai possesses is his electrical capture gun. With this power, he can open doors, charge elevators, reactivate moving platforms, etc., though he must first collect Elebits in order to charge the gun. Elebits are scattered throughout each universe, sometimes in plain sight. Most of the time, however, players will have to shake trees, pick up rocks, break vases, or scare them out by charging up particular items. Unlike the original game, Kai no longer directly collects Elebits; he instead relies on Zero and the other Omega Elebits to do so.
As mentioned earlier, players will need to capture the various Omega Elebits in order to complete their quest. Typically, each Omega is captured by successfully completing a puzzle or rescuing an inhabitant of that world. Each Omega has its own unique ability (such as fire, water, ice, surfing, magnetism, digging, strength, etc.) and can be likened to Nintendo's popular Pokémon creatures. Players are even able to evolve their Omega Elebits by charging them with watts, though the result is extremely insignificant and does not alter the gameplay in any meaningful way. The various Omega powers are required in order to reach new parts of the map or defeat the bosses, similar to another Nintendo series, The Legend of Zelda.
The game's more mundane tasks, such as collecting normal Elebits to power items, become increasingly tedious as the game moves on. Though the wattage necessary to power items increases, the wattage of the Elebits you collect does not. This results in an increasing amount of time being dedicated to the least enjoyable part of the game. Another aspect that becomes increasingly annoying as the game goes on, particularly in the more challenging levels, is the necessity to redo everything after leaving an area not unlike a square on a 2D Zelda map. Each task in the game must be completed in a linear manner, and leaving an area results in a total reset of any progress made. Players can easily leave an area accidentally by walking too close to the boundary on the map.
Controlling the game is as simple as moving Kai with the D-Pad and using the touch screen. Regardless of whether players are capturing Elebits, talking to NPCs, or using the Omegas, a simple tap will perform the desired action. In order to have an Elebit perform its ability, you must position Kai and then tap your Elebit. For example, if you want to crush a rock, you must position Kai so he is facing it and then tap the strength Omega, who will temporarily switch places with Kai to smash the rock. In frantic situations the controls can become cumbersome, since players must perfectly position Kai with the D-Pad for the desired action to occur in the proper direction. Thankfully, these situations are few and far between.
Presented in a top-down view, Elebits: The Adventures of Kai and Zero is quite beautiful. The bright colors are appealing and each themed area is very well designed and decorated. While some of the surrounding scenery has no impact on play and exists solely as aesthetic appeal, most of the environment is constantly moving and changing. In some worlds leaves will slowly fall, in others waves will crash against rocks lining the shore, and wherever Kai walks he leaves his mark whether by kicking up grass or making footprints in the sand. It's these interactions that make the game vivid, imaginitive, and beautiful.
The characters are also highly detailed and colorful, giving players an attractive palette to appreciate. Additionally, each Elebit's unique personality quirks are animated in a hilarious manner as some run in terror and others stumble carelessly along.
The multiplayer mode is a surprisingly great addition to the game, with an addictive nature that can keep players occupied for hours. Players can choose to play with friends or random players through Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. Each player chooses five Omega Elebits collected in their single player adventure and battles to collect the most Elebits in a specified time limit on a randomly generated map. As with the single player adventure, there are obstructions that can only be overcome through the use of specific Omega abilities. Due to the random generation of maps, there is a certain amount of luck associated with winning, though it doesn't hinder the experience.
Strangely enough, Elebits: The Adventures of Kai and Zero is enjoyable, but not for the same reasons its predecessor was. Collecting Elebits in a 2D setting becomes tedious after just a short time; however, the game excels where it emulates two of its adventure brethren, Zelda and Pokémon. There are many wonderful hours to experience while traveling among the colorful worlds, all the while collecting Omega Elebits whose individual abilities create an even more intriguing game. Had the game given more precedence to these aspects, the resulting product would've been even better.