Elementals: The Magic Key is a new hidden object game from the game developers at Playrix Entertainment. In it you take the role of a young wizard named Albert. He's a little flaky, a little flighty, and he didn't get the best grades in his spell-casting classes. One day while using his fortune telling table he sees a vision of the Key of Eiron, the artifact protecting their magical land from the forces of evil, being destroyed by the evil wizard Sibelius. When he goes to tell his sister Lily, the protector of the Key, he finds she's been kidnapped! Thus begins Albert's greatest adventure, with the aid of his faithful companion Felly: to rescue his sister Lily, restore the Great Key, and rid the land of the scourge of Sibelius and his evil minions forever.
As the game moves from scene to scene, you'll find yourself faced with a string of hidden object puzzles. Each time you're looking for something specific, such as pieces to a broken mirror, and then putting them back together. Unlike many hidden object games, you won't have to find random objects from an arbitrary list. Everything you need is directly related to your task. By not falling into the pitfalls of many other hidden object games, Elementals keeps you involved in its rich atmosphere.
Mini-puzzles pop up quite often during play. These range from memory puzzles to rotating puzzles to a variation of the classic Towers of Hanoi. In order to activate the portal to each of the lands that you will visit, you must solve a logic puzzle that has you reflecting colored light around a board. While many of the puzzles are fairly straightforward, some are quite challenging and will take some thought to work out. Should you get stuck for too long, you will (after a set amount of time) be able to click the "help" button and skip the puzzle. A rather unique feature of this game is that once you have faced a puzzle, regardless of whether you solved it or not, you can go back and replay it. Gives you a chance to spend more time on the more difficult puzzles without holding up your adventuring.
The other major game element you'll encounter are enemy battles. These are handled by playing a special board game that can be best described as turn-based combat on a chessboard. Each player has a number of pieces set at random around their side of the board. The goal is to move your piece into range of enemy pieces and attack. Move to the middle boundary and you'll see an attack range displayed. By moving pieces next to each other in horizontal, vertical, or diagonal lines, you can make more powerful pieces that require more hits to destroy. Of course, so can your enemy. There's a lot of strategy to this part of the game, and learning to master it is both challenging and entertaining. Add to this magical artifacts that allow you to cast spells in later rounds and the combat could almost stand on its own as a casual board game.
Analysis: The hidden-object genre has become one of the most popular in all of casual gaming, and developers have stepped up to provide content to feed that need. With so many games out there, good developers are constantly trying to find ways to make their games stand out from the crowd. Playrix has done an excellent job by focusing the hidden object sections to relevant items, by creating challenging puzzles, and by creating a battle system that's fluid and unique in its own right.
The way the hidden object scenes in Elementals function, they almost feel like a point-and-click adventure. There's a lot of clicking to operate devices, clicking to go places, and clicking to look at things. It really helps to elevate the game above other hidden object games, especially the ones that have you finding a laundry list of random items.
The puzzles are well implemented, never too tough (if a bit too easy), and the mechanics work nicely. There are a couple of true noggin scratchers in there, and, even if they do stump your grey matter, there's always the skip button. In fact, that little button almost becomes too much of a temptation, constantly nagging you to just skip puzzles/battles and turbo through the rest of the game.
After such an amazing journey, with lots of great characters and a good story, Elementals supplies a truly terrible ending. Without giving it away, it's derivative at best, seriously clichéd at worst. But, how does the old saying go? The fun is in the journey, not the destination. And, luckily, that applies to Elementals.
While it may have its flaws, Elementals: The Magic Key is a fun fantasy hidden object romp. With the ability to not only revisit the puzzles, but to battle against different creatures you have faced, as well as six others after finishing the game, there is actually some replay value here, which is something that is rarely said about this genre.