Posted on June 21, 2008, Chris XBLA Hors D’oeuvres: Elements of Destruction
XBLA Hors D’oeurvres are a weekly feature where I play the latest Xbox Live Arcade game – in trial form – for no more than 10 minutes, and then summarize my impressions of the game based only upon that.
I was fairly enthusiastic about getting to play Elements of Destruction, as you probably noticed in this week’s XBLA Wednesday story. I always found it fun to create a sprawling city in SimCity and then annihilate it with tornadoes and UFO attacks, so surely a game based on destroying everything with lightning, earthquakes and tornadoes would literally be a game made of fun.
As it turns out, I was very, very wrong. Not only is the game excruciatingly repetitive (and it’s sad when that fact is glaring in a 10 minute play session), but there’s very little challenge in this game that seems to be far too simple for its own good.
In the trial, there are three different methods of annihilating the world: tornadoes, earthquakes, and lightning. (I don’t know if there’s more beyond that, but that’s all I had access to.) After picking which of the three to use with the right analog stick and pressing A to unleash it, you’re asked to do a very small minigame of sorts, where you either mash the A button or make a circle with the analog stick — nothing particularly exciting. I certainly understand why the developer would choose to do this; if it was simply a “attack here” setup, it’d get boring mighty fast, but these become such a nuisance. Maybe it’s because they are so minor that they got on my nerves so quickly, but needing to stop each time I wanted to initiate an attack distracted me from the action.
Not that there really is much action. Basically, all there is to the game is doing the aforementioned button press and watching the fairly poor visuals as things blow up. It’s a pretty boring affair, leaving me with plenty of time to notice other problems. Ugly graphics and an irritating character aside — I won’t even comment on the things he says — I quickly got to noticing how barren the lands are. There also appears to be no correlation between the environment where I was playing and the actual location. I mean, I’ve never been to Canada, but I’ve gotta think there’s more going on up there than this.
After each level, you get a chance to level up things up, including each of your elements. The problem is that it doesn’t seem like these changes are actually going to have any significant on the game. More spectacular and carnage-inducing destruction would certainly be a nice incentive to level up each element, but when the game doesn’t look any good to begin with, it wouldn’t matter how nice the attacks are supposed to look.
I suppose small things like the disconnect between the game’s version of Canada and the real thing don’t matter with so many fundamental problems with the game. Still, I couldn’t help but notice them while I yawned in between each stupid-simple minigame. It’s actually pretty sad that the game’s destruction wasn’t enough to keep me entertained — or, at the very least, focused — but it just wasn’t all that rewarding. This was a great idea for a game, but instead of focusing on something that could have given the game some depth, like a combo system, Elements thinks it can get by with the novelty of blowing crap up. From what I played, though, it can’t — especially for $10.