The Nintendo Web Framework has opened the floodgates for indie developers on the Wii U, and while the HTML5-based system is flexible and user-friendly, the games that have been released so far have been mediocre at best and atrocious at worst - until now. Ansimuz Games and PlayEveryWare's Elliot Quest, created with the Impact engine, is not only leagues ahead of most other HTML5 games in the eShop, but also a great game in its own right. With great attention to detail and highly polished gameplay, Elliot Quest is the latest gem in the Wii U eShop.
The 8-bit-style Elliot Quest is heavily inspired by classic NES games such as Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. A side-scrolling action/adventure with RPG elements, players control Elliot, a young boy on a mysterious quest that becomes clearer as the game progresses. The story is surprisingly strong and nuanced, bringing to mind titles like Shovel Knight, whose cute and colourful aesthetic hides a complex, poignant tale.
The retro inspiration shows from the beginning, as players are dropped right into the game without instruction or context. In the beginning, Elliot can run, jump, and shoot arrows, limiting where he can traverse and what he can do. In classic “Metroidvania" style, Elliot will gain many items throughout the adventure that give him useful and powerful abilities. Acquiring the item that allows Elliot to double-jump is a satisfying and freeing moment, and that sense of accomplishment occurs every time a new power or item is acquired. Some items give automatic abilities, like the double-jump or the ability to jump on enemies Shovel Knight-style, while others have to be equipped.
It's easy to get lost in Elliot Quest. The top-down overworld (much like Zelda II) has several caves, mountains, forests and beaches to explore, and there's no indication as to where to go next. There are five dungeons to conquer, each packed with puzzles similar to the ones found in Zelda games, as well bosses at the end. Following each boss battle, Elliot gets a new magic item to equip, such as the ability to turn into a small tornado or shoot fireballs. All of these are useful in combat, which is a good thing as battles can be very challenging.
A simple RPG system is also in place. Killing enemies will give Elliot experience points, and levelling up grants points to go towards attributes like strength, defence and more. Dying in Elliot Quest actually has consequences. While Elliot will simply respawn at the last checkpoint (which actually has a clever narrative purpose), a moderate amount of experience will be lost.
The visuals in Elliot Quest are charming and colourful. The game runs smoothly for the most part, but we did encounter some slowdown during moments when there was a lot happening on-screen (you could argue this is in-keeping with the humble hardware this title is attempting to replicate). The retro music is catchy, and the sound effects are appropriately 8-bit. The GamePad is used an inventory display, and there's also off-TV play. Elliot Quest can be played through in 6 to 9 hours depending on how lost you get, and there are several secrets to discover which naturally extend that total play time.
Elliot Quest is a solid new entry to the ever-growing stable of great eShop titles. While it's not perfect - there really shouldn't be slowdown in a game with 8-bit pixel art, and it can be frustrating to try to figure out where to go next - anyone looking for a challenging, satisfying action adventure will likely get a lot of enjoyment out of it. As well as all this, Elliot Quest is a great showcase for what HTML5 can do. Just be prepared to do a lot of exploring.