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Publisher: Playrix    Genre: Action
Min OS X: 10.4    CPU: Any CPU @ 2000 MHz    RAM: 512 MB    Hard Disk: 74 MB    Graphics: 800x600

4 Elements
April 6, 2009 | Richard Hallas

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4 Elements
As any good fantasy game player should know, the four elements of nature are earth, air, fire and water, and it is these elements around which 4 Elements revolves.

When I first saw screenshots of this game, my initial reaction was, "Oh no, not another Jewel Quest variant!" But it all looked very pretty and sounded a little more intriguing than usual, so I decided to take a look.

And the good news is: this is not another Jewel Quest variant; static screenshots are actually rather misleading. Although it certainly has aspects in common with other jewel-matching games, 4 Elements is surprisingly original and plays quite differently from previous games in the genre.

Be warned that there is a story, and that it's extremely feeble. What's more, it's told by a thoroughly aggravating fairy who generally floats around the screen and gets in the way for an unacceptable amount of time. The fairy can, in fact, be asked not to show up too often, but largely ignores this request and remains present for far too much of the time.

Basically, the aim of the game is to restore the pages of four books, one for each element, piece together the pictures of characters within them, and thus save the world one more time. To achieve this goal, you must make your way through fields of gems, digging through blocks of solid ground to allow a fluid to pass from a starting-point to a finishing-point over a level of considerable size: in most cases, the screen is merely a scrolling viewport onto a much larger play area. You have no control over the scrolling; rather, it follows the progress of the fluid.

Gameplay: 3 Elements
There are actually 3 elements to 4 Elements, if you see what I mean. That is, although the main game is a jewel-matching exercise, there are two other mini-games that must also be played.

For each of the elemental books there are sixteen levels of the jewel-matching game (so, 64 levels altogether). At the start of every elemental book there is also a hidden objects game (so, four of those in total) and all the levels are grouped into sets of four, with a spot-the-difference game at the end of each set (so, sixteen of those in total). So actually there are 84 levels in the whole game if you count the extra mini-games.

The hidden object games are surprisingly enjoyable, I found. Rather than looking for individual things, you're actually looking for broken-up pieces of four different objects. When you've found all the bits of your first object, you can expect to use that object to unlock something in the scene that will open to reveal a part of one of the other objects. Once you've found all the bits and unlocked everything, you'll finally receive the key to unlock the elemental book and be able to proceed to the main jewel-matching game. Although I groaned a bit when I discovered that there was a hidden object game to play through (as the market seems saturated with them these days), I have to say that I really enjoyed the ones in 4 Elements. The pieces of object you have to find are quite cunningly hidden, and so the four games thus prevent a decent challenge without being too frustrating; and the artwork is very nice too.

Much the same can be said of the spot-the-difference games, in which you're presented with two picture cards and have to find four, five or six subtle differences between them. Spot-the-difference games tend to be pretty easy in general, but I found that some of the examples here were actually quite challenging, with the very good-quality artwork making the differences quite subtle and hard to see. Again, the difficulty here wasn't excessive, and some differences were very easy to spot, but there was enough challenge to make this mini-game unexpectedly interesting. Overall I was pleased to find that both mini-games were surprisingly good fun despite their derivative nature.

And so, on to the main jewel-matching game.


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