When people talk about the end of the world, they focus on things like robots, aliens and global warfare. When it comes to Armageddon, sentient beings (usually mankind) are the prime suspects. 4 Elements – Puzzledom, a Match-3 puzzler from RealArcade and Playrix Entertainment, has a different idea.
Here, the winds howl outside your door. Plants will not grow. Rivers dry up. The end times are near. How did this happen? An unnamed evil (presumably a conscious force, human or otherwise) got ahold of some magic books, which you must now unbind and reinvigorate to set everything right again.
These puzzles can save the world.
There are a number of questions that go unanswered in this game, like who exactly took the books? How did they break them? And most importantly, what do these silly minigames have to do with anything?
4 Elements began life as a PC game. This iPhone port is mostly faithful, with the same high quality graphics as the original. The content has been scaled down, with 32 levels compared to the PC version’s 64. The minigames are the same, as is the gameplay.
Most of the gameplay is pretty straightforward. You are given a page from one of the books, with a magic spring on one side and a magic well on the other. You must destroy red, green, blue and yellow gems in groups of three or more to clear a path from the spring to the well. Magic energy will flow into new areas as you clear them, allowing you to continually monitor your progress. When you destroy enough gems of a single color, you earn a power up that allows you to shuffle the tiles, instantly destroy one or many, or swap one tile for another.
Oh, oh, it’s magic, you know.
Every few levels you play one of two minigames, neither of which makes sense in terms of the larger story arc. To first open the Earth, Fire, Wind and Water books you must find the key, which has been broken into large, very obvious pieces and scattered across a beautiful, whimsical setting. The pieces are easily found and must be tapped to put it in place. You then drag the key to the now illuminated keyhole area. This all takes no more than one minute, and adds nothing whatsoever to the game.
Because it has to do with the sacred books you’re working with, this one at least relates to the storyline. The second superfluous minigame presents you with two cards side by side, depicting a seemingly identical mystical scene. There are three small differences between the two pictures. To move on in the game, you must tap each of the three areas where the pictures differ. The images of dwarves, mermaids and the like stay true to the fantasy theme, but the images never come up again and do nothing to move the story line forward. It feels very tacked on, and is so simple as to not be much fun.
The main gameplay is not much fun either. The iPhone’s touchscreen seems like the perfect way to play this game, allowing you to touch the tiles you want to destroy. Unfortunately, your fingertip is larger than the tiles, so when you try to touch one, sometimes the tile next to it gets selected instead. This is a big problem when you’re trying to use a powerup on a specific tile.
Between not being able to select the tiles you want and the annoying, tacked on minigames, we weren’t that impressed with 4 Elements. Fans of the PC version might enjoy this port, but we advise caution for the uninitiated. Let someone else save the world this time.