Slowly, surely, three-dimensional platformers are making a resurgence. Elli from BandanaKid is a puzzle platformer exclusive to Nintendo Switch, and for an indie game, it boasts pretty attractive visuals and lighting. In all other regards though, the game plays it safe, making it a competent but not extraordinary addition to the genre.
No time for story
The story of Elli is completely forgettable, being told in brief cinematics and snippets of dialogue between sections. The titular character watches over the Crystals of Time, but while she is celebrating her birthday, the overzealous Ghasti steals them. Elli must retrieve the crystals before time and reality are destroyed. There are some other characters in the story, but none of them matter.
The character design is exceedingly bland. All the tertiary characters look frustratingly generic. Only Elli and Ghasti stand out, except I kept forgetting they were girls because they don’t look it. By comparison, the environments are vibrant and generally enjoyable to see, though they never really look lived in. Every area very clearly exists just to be solved as a puzzle in a video game. But that’s okay; even games like The Last Guardian suffer from this issue.
The accompanying soundtrack is quite serene. It’s not mindblowing, but its presence enhances the gameplay and a couple of the songs are actually worth humming.
Platforming without a twist
In Elli, you run and jump, step on switches, throw ticking bombs, and use your staff to reveal hidden objects. That’s pretty much it. There is no combat, and the only dangerous obstacles comprise flames and environmental projectiles. Falling off a cliff whisks you back to your last checkpoint (which are abundant in the game), and your health is typically restored instantly. So in essence, it’s very hard to die in Elli, and there’s little punishment when death occurs.
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The simplicity of the gameplay combined with the low consequences for failure makes this a very appealing option for young gamers. Likewise, the gameplay that is here isn’t badly done by any means. Over its upward of 10 hours of gameplay, you will experience some decent variety of puzzles, with the middle of the game strangely being the most satisfying. The beginning is too simple and boring, and the finale feels like too much of the same. But the middle is a sweet spot where the game actually evolves at a compelling pace.
As you hop from place to place, Elli can collect crystals and green coins. They can be spent at shops to buy new hats, robes, and staffs. They have strictly aesthetic value, and I collected enough crystals and coins in one playthrough to buy every item. So replay value is low.
One more wrinkle to the gameplay is that there are occasional sidescrolling sections where Elli can double jump and dash. These are timed sections, but the platforming even here is so simple that there is little danger of failure. Still, they were enjoyable distractions.
Elli is still good for young kids
My enthusiasm for Elli ebbed and flowed over the course of my run, from boredom to excitement to finally settling for something in-between the two. It’s not a game that does anything you haven’t seen before, but it puts together a decently enjoyable experience with its time-tested mechanics. Seasoned players of the genre won’t have a lot to sink their teeth into here, but Elli’s accessible gameplay, low difficulty, and inoffensive design make it a good game to introduce the youngest kids to the genre.
A review code was provided by the publisher.