Elliot Quest is a side-scrolling, action-RPG that instantly brings to mind classics from the NES era such as Zelda II: The Adventure of Link and Metroid. It was originally released on PC, shortly before its first console appearance on Wii U in 2015. It has since appeared on various platforms, with many consoles seeing it arrive in their stores for the first time this year, and now it has arrived on Switch.  

A demon, referred to as a Satar, has placed a curse upon Elliot – the curse is slowly consuming Elliot’s vitality and will eventually turn him into a demon himself. To combat this, Elliot must explore Urele Island in the hope of finding a cure and talking to one of the island’s Guardians who have managed to keep the Satar from taking over completely. Whilst this story often gets lost thanks to it being told rather infrequently in short bursts, his adventure sees him explore and conquer five dungeons, take on 16 different bosses and travel across an entire world map.

The game’s dungeons are by far its stand-out feature; with a bit of squinting and playful imagination you’ll convince yourself that you really are playing through one of the aforementioned NES classics. You’ll use your bow and arrows to take out enemies, bombs to blow up walls and find new areas, magic powers to aid with travel, and later abilities such as an improved jump to reach new areas, all of which come together to make Elliot Quest feel like it could well become yet another beloved RPG great.

As you explore each dungeon you’ll come across a variety of enemies with different attack patterns, including some that can be used as platforms when defeated, as well as treasure chests and vases that can contain money, bomb supplies, or items to restore your health. Often you’ll find areas that you can’t reach yet, forcing you to move on in a different direction and hopefully remember to come back later on. You’ll also encounter several boss fights which usually require an expert level of attack-dodging, waiting for your opportunity to strike. Beating a boss allows you to enter a room with a large, glowing heart which, when collected, will add another heart to your life meter – sound familiar?

On top of this, there is a levelling-up system to take into account. As you defeat enemies you’ll rack up experience points (which you’ll also lose again each time you die) and by gaining enough experience, you’ll grow by one level. With each level you rise up to, you’ll be able to upgrade either your strength (attack power), wisdom (magic power), agility (attack speed), vitality (health), or accuracy (again, for your attacks). You can allocate your experience points however you like and each little upgrade will improve that category in slightly different ways – thanks to this, you may wish to work on increasing one particular category in order to unlock a certain power later on.

Unfortunately, there are several issues that keep Elliot Quest from being the masterpiece that it could have been. Firstly, the game can be particularly difficult – not in an exciting, challenging way, but in a needlessly infuriating way. Each dungeon contains save points which are dotted around in certain, specific areas. Taking the shape of a large stone, these game-savers act as checkpoints, allowing you to start from the last one you reached should you die. The problem is that they always seem to be slightly too far away – perhaps one room along from where you really need it. Of course, this means that you need to really work on each area of the dungeon, remembering where foes are located and mastering every enemy’s attack pattern. This approach will work for some players but often it felt rather tiring.

Worse than this, though, is the world map and the general feeling of being utterly lost within it. The map acts as a birds-eye view of every area – Elliot can walk across it and enter various locations. Frustratingly, it is never clear where you are supposed to go; after completing a dungeon there will be several areas available to access but only one will continue the story. As an example, after completing the game’s first dungeon, you cannot progress through the next until you have found bombs to use; knowing where to find these items (as well as figuring out that they are even a feature of the game in the first place) can take far, far too long. At times we were forced to walk around for what felt like an eternity, visiting the same old places again and again, just in the hope of finding any clue as to where we might need to go next.

This is a real shame because everything else about the game works really nicely. The graphics naturally hark back to the era from which the game is inspired, as does the chiptune soundtrack which contains some very catchy moments indeed. Elliot feels great to control (particularly when you’ve levelled him up a bit) and the dungeons are interesting enough to make you want to explore. If it wasn’t so blindingly difficult to work out where you need to head next, we could have had a real winner on our hands.

Conclusion

Elliot Quest manages to take some of the best things from its inspirations and present them once again almost as successfully; the RPG elements and dungeon exploration are a pleasure to play through. Unfortunately, a lack of clarity in the game’s direction (both plot-wise, and literally for the player) leave the game rather shy of the greatness it could have been. If you love games like Zelda II, and feel at home in front of any dungeon-crawling RPG, you’ll undoubtedly get some fun out of this game; for others, though, there are better alternatives in the genre that you could try first.