Before the arrival of extensive open-world gaming, cutting-edge 3D graphics and online multiplayer connectivity, video games were much more humble. Life was simpler and the games of yesteryear were a reflection of this. The Adventures of Elena Temple by GrimTalin is for anyone who has a yearning for the past. It’s intended to be the gaming equivalent of comfort food, providing you with a nostalgic feeling that will bring back fonder memories.
The game is modelled on challenging old school platform games of the '80s, with minor puzzle elements thrown in for good measure. You take control of Elena Temple as she navigates more than 50 rooms of a dungeon filled with coins and other treasures as she searches for an exit. Much like a scene out of Indiana Jones, each room is filled with dangerous enemies and obstacles. You’ll spend most of your time shooting snakes with a pistol, destroying pots, jumping between moving platforms, avoiding lethal arrows and hitting switches to access special areas. The open exploration means you have some control over how you progress through the dungeon. There’s also a map if you need some guidance.
The quality of the platform action is on par with the source material it has been inspired by. It’s well executed for most parts, with responsive and precise character movement that makes exploring each room relatively easy if you’re veteran of the genre. If you aren’t familiar with this type of game, the general brutality of it can be punishing at times when you’re required to simultaneously avoid spikes, large cogs and jump across gaps. Fortunately, if Elena is injured she resets in the same room – meaning you can make as many errors as you want.
About the only notable problem is linked to the confined spaces Elena occasionally operates within. This falls back on the level design which is not as refined as what is featured in more prominent platform games of this particular era, or currently on the market. Sometimes movement is restricted because of poor placement of certain platforms, walls or excess spikes – which seems to make some challenges a little bit harder. Despite a limitless amount of retries, the overall sense of accomplishment you get from completing a room should still be satisfying enough. One other factor to note is how the game is relatively short – so expect a few hours at best. Other than the minor issues, the actual gameplay is hard to fault.
What’s likely apparent from the screenshots of The Adventures of Elena Temple is the unique visual presentation of the title. The 8-bit look of the game is so important, there’s an entire story to explain it. You’re not just exploring dungeons as Elena in order to get a dose of nostalgia; you’re actually playing on classic gaming devices in notable locations such as your bedroom or family living room (as is displayed by background photos). The systems featured are parody takes on the Game Boy, Game Boy Advance SP, old computers and even Apple devices. There are seven simulated machines in total, with screen dimensions varying in size. This is especially noticeable when playing in docked mode.
What this allows you to do as the player is select which system you want to play the game on, with each one offering a different visual style. It’s also explained in the main menu how this title was apparently a classic that nobody ever played, yet somehow kept getting ported across to different platforms of the time, despite poor business decisions. Of course, this is all intended as extra fictional padding to help you further immerse yourself in this retro world. Arguably, the best filters on offer are the Game Boy ones, providing crisp pixel presentation and 8-bit sound effects and music. Regardless of preference, the game plays exactly the same across the seven simulated machines, with the ability to save & exit and then continue from the same point on a completely different machine. The purpose here is to simply satisfy your thirst for nostalgia – with the machine you decide to use up to you. Admittedly, each one does feel like a tacky knock-off of the real thing.
The Adventures of Elena Temple does a solid job recreating a certain era of platform gaming, despite minor problems linked to level design. What’s unfortunate is how more time, effort and focus seems to have gone into the fictional history of the game and the machines it can be played on for the sake of nostalgia, rather than the gameplay. It’s nice there is reasoning behind the visual filters, but this and the silly story comes across as overbearing when the actual gameplay perfectly captures the feeling of nostalgia. It’s a pity the developer didn’t just release the game in its rawest form, cutting out the excess trimmings and adding in more playable content.