Look over there! In your browser window! It's an RPG! It's a platformer! It's... an elephant? Yes, it's Elephant Quest, which is both of these genres lovingly baked together into an adorable JIMP-drawn pachyderm shape for you by jmtb02 with a sprinkling of shooter goodness on top. Wooly the Mammoth has stolen your hat, and in order to get it back, you're going to need to get some epic questing going on, exploring a huge, non-linear environment, completing side-quests, collecting keys, and shooting cute but evil monsters in the face with your laser.
Either the [WASD] or [arrow] keys will control your elephant's movement, and aim and fire with the mouse. When you first start the game, you'll notice that your character handles like... well, an elephant. An elephant who just ate a huge meal of peanuts. He can hardly jump, he's fairly slow, and his laser is not exactly impressive. As you kill enemies and complete quests, you'll gain experience points and level up. When that happens, click the button in the upper right corner, or hit the [spacebar].
In this menu, you'll first and foremost be able to spend the "credits" you earn from leveling up on a maze-like skill tree. You'll earn skill points in 5, 10, 15 and 50 point increments in four areas: dexterity, agility, charisma, and intelligence. In turn, you can use these points on the skill window (in the same menu) to buy and upgrade important skills like your jumping ability, and your cuteness. Every 25 points increases a skill by one level, so keep that in mind when spending your points. There are two other important menus in this area. The level map shows where you have and haven't been yet, marks NPCs with stars, and shows exits and connections between screens. The quest menu shows which quests you've unlocked, what you have to do next for quests in progress, and which quests you've completed as well. There are 11 regular quests, and if you log in to your free Armor Games account, Sushi Cat, another game featuring JIMP art, makes an appearance in a bonus quest.
At the bottom, you can resume the game, and in the lower right you'll notice controls for quality and sound as well as a pause button. The game also automatically pauses anytime you click outside the game window.
Analysis: A lot can be happening on screen at once, and this can be a drag on older computers, especially once you unlock a flock of minions to hover around you. If you notice serious lag issues, definitely try closing other browser tabs and adjusting the quality. Since my usual lean mean game-chewing machine is awaiting a warranty swap, I'm currently stuck on a 2006-era MacBook. Even so, I was able to beat the game and complete all the quests, so don't think you have to pass this one up if your computer's on the old side. I even was able to keep the quality on high much of the time.
The game has a freewheeling spirit of exploration akin in some ways to the classic Fancy Pants series, and JIMP's art perfectly fits the sweet yet witty humor of the plot. There are certain comparisons to be made in girth, greed and attitude between Wooly and the canine villain of the latest Sushi Cat game, so if you liked the style and atmosphere of that game, you're bound to be tickled by Elephant Quest as well.
In Sushi Cat, you defeat the villain in a cutscene, and the villain of Elephant Quest might as well have been a cutscene for all the difficulty I had defeating him in the final boss fight. That part was a little anticlimactic. Even though I hadn't actually leveled up fully, I still beat the boss without my hitpoints ever getting lower than 260/275.
I had many much more challenging sections in the regular game itself, especially because I ventured into a certain locked area a little earlier than I think the game-maker intended, and then got spooked and ran away from the enemies deeper into the more difficult area (oops). By the time I figured out I was really in trouble, I had gotten myself into an area where I couldn't backtrack because platforming back was more difficult than platforming forward had been. I thus was stuck with my rather pathetic low-level elephant in an area where flying enemies swarmed you almost immediately. It was hectic but fun. I died a lot, but I leveled up fairly quickly too (it helps that dying has no experience penalty), and pretty soon I had beefed up my elephant enough to laser-blast my way out of there, and when I got to that point I felt the satisfaction of accomplishment.
Then again, there is something to be said for the satisfaction when the 97-pound-weakling runs up and kicks sand in the face of the former bully, so maybe this total curb-stomping of a boss battle fits the narrative arc of the game better than a victory you have to struggle to achieve by the skin of your teeth (or tusks). Perhaps the fight would have been more challenging if I hadn't completed all the sidequests first (this is the problem I always run into with Final Fantasy games, too). The game does try to appeal to many different styles of gamer, from fanatical completionists like myself to "what's the most direct way to the boss" speed demons. The game also offers an additional "come get some" to speedrunners in the form of the "new game plus" option, which enables you to start the game over with all your experiences and upgrades already unlocked.
Whimsical and with wide-appeal, this is certain to be another major hit.