Indie games that draw inspiration, both visually and mechanically, from 8- and 16-bit games are a dime a dozen. There’s a fine line between updating and revitalizing old mechanics and simply borrowing elements from those games for the sake of familiarity. Elliot Quest definitely walks this line but never really lands into either side of the spectrum. That’s not to say that the game is bad or lacks identity, as it wears its influences on its sleeve, but Elliot Quest establishes a world and narrative of its own. Elliot Quest is a unique case of a game that feels new but has one foot firmly planted in the past as well.

Elliot Quest’s story follows the titular hero Elliot on his journey to rid himself of a curse put upon him by a demon called the Satar. This curse prevents Elliot from dying and is slowly turning him into a demon. Throughout the game a lot of the story is delivered by Elliot’s inner monologue describing and questioning the events taking place around him. The sparse story bits fit in perfectly with the rest of the game, and builds an air of mystery around the world. Add to that the lack of item descriptions, area names and instruction on what to do next and you have a world that’s extremely satisfying to uncover. This naturally encourages exploration and experimentation, which the game handsomely rewards.

Ansimuz Games

Walking around towns and other areas inhabited by NPCs is also a good way to learn about the game and Elliot’s surroundings. All of the NPC dialogue falls somewhere between the cryptic dialogue of the NES days and simply telling you which item to use on a boss or where to go next. Elliot Quest looks like a very colorful 8-bit game, although the pixel art is much more simplistic than anything from that era. Players of Kid Icarus or Zelda 2: Adventure of Link will feel right at home with this game’s structure and gameplay. This game switches between a sidescrolling camera angle when in dungeons, caves and towns, and a top down view in the overworld.

Elliot’s main weapon is a bow, and his arrows are affected by gravity, meaning that until you upgrade your abilities later on, you have a very short reaching projectile. This immediately adds a layer of strategy to combat, as you have to plan your attacks as well as the distance between you and an enemy. This may sound annoying but in reality it makes combat more satisfying once you learn how to quickly dispatch enemies. Killing enemies is something you’ll be doing a lot, since they give you experience and leveling up lets you upgrade Elliot’s abilities.These upgrades range from greater arrow distance, faster shooting speed, or even regenerating health later on. None of these upgrades ever make the game feel too easy, but rather they make you feel better equipped to handle the variety of challenges present here.

Ansimuz Games

Speaking of challenge, this game is tough. It walks the line between meticulous dungeon crawling and puzzle solving and frustratingly difficult enemies very well. This game rewards patience more than anything else, so taking your time with a particular boss or a room full of enemies is encouraged. That isn’t to say that you can’t rush through this game, though. Once you learn enemy patterns and get good at combining your skills and items you can breeze through some dungeons, and it’s really satisfying to do so. It is very easy to die in this game however, especially in the first few hours of the game.

While dying doesn’t send you too far back, since checkpoints are plentiful in this game, it does result in a loss of experience points. This means that dying repeatedly will make it much harder to level up and gain some crucial ability upgrades. Overall you’ll want to be very careful early on, or at least until you’ve gathered a couple of items or upgrades. The items in Elliot Quest range from extremely useful to extremely situational, but overall they give the player freedom to tackle dungeons in more creative ways and keeps the gameplay from getting stale as you progress deeper into the game. There are also a few optional items and upgrades that are well hidden and add to the replay value.

There’s no doubt that Elliot Quest is an homage to games like Zelda 2 and Castlevania, but there’s also a lot of originality here, especially in the game’s narrative. The RPG elements like the upgrade system and large amount of optional collectibles add more depth than one would think just by looking at it or even playing for a couple of hours. All of these things are great and when combined, make Elliot Quest a solid experience, but it’s also nothing you haven’t seen before. The world and bosses feel unique, but otherwise feels like a greatest hits compilation of mechanics from the games Elliot Quest takes inspiration. This game doesn’t do very much wrong, but what it gets right has all been done before.

This review was completed using a purchased digital copy of Elliot Quest for the Wii U.