Indie game developer, I-Illusions, has come up with a very charming action platform game with Element4L. With a very easy control scheme, Element4L is a great example of a game that is easy to pick up, but hard to master. Element4L also has an aesthetic that is simply gorgeous to both the eye and the ear. I was drawn to the look and the sound of the game from the very beginning, and the game play helped make my time with Element4L extremely enjoyable.


I-Illusions did something special for the story of Element4L, they left it up to interpretation. There is a story here, but it is seen through cut scenes, quotes, and small messages. Many games live or die on their story elements, like character development or plot, but Element4L gives you a little bit of a story just to keep things interesting and relies solely on the game play and aesthetic to give you a great gaming experience. There is an ending to Element4L, but it is just as cryptic and up for interpretation as the rest of the game.

Being a reviewer that feels that writing and story are just as important as game play, Element4L fights that preconceived notion with solid game play and beautiful aesthetics to make me forget that there isn’t character development or plot progression going on here. Element4L’s story is based on the idea of how life began on this planet. The player is represented by all four elements: fire, ice, earth and air. As you progress through the levels, you will discover collectibles called “soul parts” to help bring about life. If you are looking for a fantastic story line, keep looking. Playing Element4L is like looking at a Vincent van Gogh masterpiece, you understand the premise of what the art is about, but the details are all up to you to feel and fill in.

Game Play

In game design, simple does not always equate to easy and Element4L is a perfect example of this. You begin the game using only one element, air, that is controlled by pressing the up arrow key to inflate yourself to higher levels. Around your air bubble, there is a ring of energy that depletes every time you inflate yourself, once that ring is exhausted then you cannot inflate anymore. As the levels progress, you gain the ability to change into the other three elements by using the arrow keys: fire, ice, and earth. Each of these elements have uses and specific characteristics. The ice element slides on the ground, earth can fall faster to generate momentum, and fire can launch itself forward. Using these four combinations, you are tasked with reaching the end of each level. If you touch the ground as a certain element, or fall into the hazards then you will restart from the check point of the level to try again.

What makes Element4L challenging is using this simple control scheme of the four elements to solve the level without dying. The developers made some truly wicked sections of the levels that will require the player to think outside the box in order to complete that section. Some just utilize the elements in a different way, like turning into ice to hit a lava patch to become water and trickle through a smaller hole in the floor. Others will require button combinations and timing to pass. The game does a good job in showing the player some of these combinations to help them understand what is needed, but the actual execution is much harder in reality. Half the time I would forget, in my haste, what button actually turned me into what element. I would expect to turn into ice, hit the wrong button and be absolutely surprised to be turned into fire as I hit the ground in a shower of sparks.

Depth of game play is also not connected to complexity of control schemes. I’ve had many discussions lately about table top gaming and depth versus complexity, and feel that Element4L is the perfect example of a simple control scheme that leads to deep game play.

element4l 02


This is where Element4l first drew me in: Its visuals and its soundtrack. This game is simply gorgeous. Element4L’s visuals are reminiscent of Limbo, but instead of being a world that is terrifying, it is a world of beauty and nature. The negative elements that you are trying to avoid, like the ground or ceiling, are shown in pure black to set itself apart from the soft glow of the background color, which changes for each level. The developers chose to use softer tones and blended edges to give the entire game a dream like feel. The visual aesthetic really speaks to me, and I feel that Element4L has one of the best looking aesthetics in any game that I’ve played this year.

The soundtrack for Element4L is just as superb as the visuals. The music is appropriate and really adds to the serene feeling that one gets from playing this game. You may feel the frustration rising in the back of your throat from dying ten times trying to pass a certain section of the level, but just sit and listen to the music and you will feel that frustration begin to sit down again. There isn’t any voice acting in Element4L, nor should there be. The entire sound aesthetic rides on the soundtrack of the game, and that is just a perfect fit with the visuals. Both of these elements combined make Element4L a must play game.

Final Thoughts

Element4L is a must-buy game for anyone that is looking for a challenge that is gorgeous to look at. For $10 on Steam, Element4L is easily worth every penny. The only critique I can hand Element4L is that the game itself is a little short, but for the price tag you get a great value. Element4L is a great example of how a simple mechanic can lead to deep game play through creative game design. Using only the arrow keys to turn yourself into the four elements, players must use combinations to make it through each level to progress to the next. Element4L is also the best looking and sounding game that I have played this year. The aesthetics create such a serene gaming experience, it actually makes the game feel much more tolerable when the difficulty curve ramps up. I highly recommend Element4L for those of you that are willing to play a beautiful game that has no enemies or guns. Element4L is available now on Steam.

[easyreview title=”Element4L Review Score” cat1title=”Overall Score (out of 5)” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”4″ ]
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John "Judgeman" Dugan is a long time contributor and Gaming Shogun's resident fighting game expert. Judgeman has appeared on G4's Arena, including season 1's Tournament of Champions, and was a regular in the early days of Street Fighter 2 tournaments.