An ancient kingdom is in trouble after the magic of the four elements is corrupted by evil powers. Only by unlocking four ancient books of magic can the lands be restored and predictable enough, you volunteered for the job. While 4 Elements is a casual game with a rather childish storyline, this is no reason to dismiss it, especially if you have children.
Predictable storyline aside, the gameplay is rather solid and consists of a nice blend between match three puzzles, hidden object scenes and spot the differences screens. For each of the four magic books you first have to reassemble hidden pieces that give you access to the key needed to unlock the book. It is then on to the match three gameplay segments which, with more than sixty levels, take up the bulk of the game. Each completed level reveals a bit more of a creature card which upon completion is host to a spot the differences challenge.
Instead of clearing the entire playing field in the match three segments, your goal is only to clear a path from beginning to end through which some liquid flows. This starts out simple enough, but eventually you start encountering obstacles such as rocks or frozen blocks. Since each level has a time limit these obstacles can slow you down, but fortunately you have some power-ups at your disposal. The shovel will let you dig up a single block while the bomb power-up will clear away rocks. You can also swap pieces with the right power-up or reshuffle the whole board. These power-ups are charged by making matches with the appropriately colored gems on the board, but you can also string together five or more matches to create an explosion. There are only four jewel colors, but the levels are large enough that there is rarely time to waste. It is a casual game though, so don’t expect anything too hectic.
The visuals are pretty basic but everything is nice and colorful. The game is also quite polished for a casual title and while the resolution is stuck at 800X600 it still looks good. There is a 4 Elements HD available for PS3 so it is a pity that the PC version was never updated. An increased resolution would have meant that more of the scrolling playing field was visible, which would have come in very handy. The audio isn’t too bad with some suitable music and even a voiced intro which is a rarity in games of this type.
As far as casual games go, 4 Elements is one of the better and more polished ones on offer. I picked it up in a Steam sale and it took me close to ten hours to complete the whole game. While it is unlikely that I will go back to it, having gotten most of the achievements, it certainly offered value for money. The gameplay can be a bit repetitive and the childish plot may deter some players, but if you can look past this you will find a very enjoyable game.
*Review originally published in 2008.
- OS: Windows 98/ME/NT/2000/XP/Vista
- Processor: 1GHz or better
- Memory: 256+ MB
- Graphics: 64 MB/16-bit Graphics Card
- DirectX®: DirectX 8.0 or higher
- Hard Drive: 62+ MB Space Free
- Sound: 16-bit Sound card