May 3rd, 2012 | By Mark O'Beirne
When a game’s developers describe the title as “challenging”, it will either be the easiest, most misleading game of all time or it will have moments of bone-crushingly difficulty. Mr. Elastic falls into the latter category on occasion. While the game looks family friendly, we can immediately tell you that it isn’t. This isn’t because the content is unsuitable, but rather because your children will develop rage issues and an unconditional fear of elastic bands if you let them play it.
Mr. Elastic is a 2D puzzle and physics based platformer in which you play an elastic ball, known as Mr. Elastic. In the game you must collect elastic bits, pieces of star or simply get from one portal on the level to the exit portal within the number of lives you have available to you. The game harks back to earlier platforming titles with a limited number of lives, a sparse number of checkpoints and animations whenever the player is inactive for too long. For the majority of the game, Mr. Elastic also resembles Jim Carrey’s 90s cult hero The Mask with a permanent grimace affixed to his face.
The title certainly keeps players occupied and there is good value for money to be found. Each level awards up to three stars, though the third star will challenge the most skilled players as you must complete the level within a certain amount of time. There are twenty-seven levels split across four lands, each with their own theme and challenge. If you are in the mood for a quicker and more streamlined experience, there are also 21 time trial levels. These can be a nice change of pace from the main game as they do not feature limited lives, are much more compact and may teach you additional skills that can be transferred over.
One of the main issues is that the instructions are rather vague and there is no tutorial. There are a handful of quick “lessons” in the opening levels, but they never really arm players with the knowledge for what is in store. However, if players consult the game’s website, they can find several video tutorials that explain some of the core mechanics, concepts and tricks in detail. Mr. Elastic is a tough game at the best of times, but the omission of these vital tutorials in simply cruel.
While no stranger to platformers having unlocked the Guy in Super Meat Boy, and sploded countless times in the ‘Splosion Man titles, Mr. Elastic proved to be too much of a challenge at times. This is mainly as a result of the limited lives structure which the game adopts. However, there are times when it makes the mistake of drifting into the unfair territory rather than just being a difficult game.
To give you an example: there is one level relatively early on where the player must collect a rock powerup, which allows Mr. Elastic to roll over spikes without taking any damage. However, there is a time limit to this power-up. The unfair side of this level kicks in after the checkpoint where there is a gap which, if fallen through, brings the player back to the start with no alternative route to get back up. The rock powerup does not reappear, so players are forced to suicide. With only three lives available in a given level, this becomes a frustration rather quickly.
When levels flow and players crack the recipe for success, Mr Elastic is a rewarding game. The in-game physics are excellent and used as both a helping hand and a hindering challenge. The best players in the world have seen how this engine can work to their advantage and have sent times tumbling since the game’s release. The leaderboard implementation is an excellent addition as players can instantly see how they stack up. However, if you’re struggling it acts as a painful reminder that while you’ve repeated a level endlessly, some have completed the same level in seconds.
Mr. Elastic is a game that masochists will certainly enjoy; it takes skill, patience and persistence. A few tweaks are needed here and there; players should be able to progress seamlessly to next level, restart levels immediately after death and tutorials need to be implemented. A personal preference would be that Mr. Elastic takes the ’Splosion Man approach and abandons the game over screen or allows players to bypass a level when they are struggling. However, once you crack a challenging level, there is a great feeling of accomplishment that few games reward you with.