Elements Review
Elements Review
The new king of the Adobe Flash room escape genre.
Posted: 05/27/15 | Category: Review | Developer: Mya | Publisher: Mya | Platform: Other

Genre: Adobe Flash room escape genre 
Release date: May 20, 2015

It was only about a dozen years ago that the whole Adobe Flash room escape genre began with a game called The Crimson Room. This type of game went, as they say, viral, and since then there have been thousands upon thousands. The Flash room escape game has much in common with the adventure game, but mostly it remains true to its name - a short exercise in solving various puzzles to get through a locked door. These games have varied widely in quality and cleverness, but the general feeling among the community is that the best designer to have emerged is a Japanese individual named Mya, who maintains a website called Neutral. Mya’s greatest effort came in early 2008, a game titled Vision that was much more than a standard room escape. Its complexity and cleverness and design were all brilliant. Neutral’s last “major” Flash escape came in late 2010 with Linkage. There have been some mini-games since, but no big opus like Vision. The faithful have been waiting four-and-a-half years for the next “full-sized” game, and it finally arrived in mid-May: Elements.

Story
 

Mya’s new game starts off looking like a standard room escape. You’re in a nicely appointed den or office somewhere. There are a couch and some shelves and a desk. And of course a locked double door. This is only the start of a long, intricate journey that will take you through the large structure you’re inhabiting. It won’t be until the very end of the game that you’ll be able to look back and see where you’ve been. You’ll go up and down and in and out, moving from one area to the next by solving a series of wordless puzzles. Mya is Japanese but there is no written text in the game. All is conveyed through unique symbols. Of course, you spend much of your time exploring the various areas you find yourself in (and try to get yourself out of), looking under pieces of furniture and up at skylights, and opening locked containers of all sizes and types. The whole game is an enormous toyroom full of delightful, clever conundrums.

Gameplay
 

There’s no help system, no hints, no walkthrough. As the main game page explains: “This game is geared to the player who like to puzzle out fiddly riddles with pen and paper.” So you’re on your own, relying entirely on your powers of perception and logic. The game page also says: “The level of difficulty is most challenging 4.” Personally, I didn’t find the puzzles in Elements especially difficult. I’d say that they’re more than fair, and certainly logical. The biggest challenge is simply keeping everything straight, and realizing which clues apply to which locks. As you solve the various puzzles, inventory items evaporate so that you never have more than a handful to deal with at any one time. Here, however, is one hint I will give you. If something is still in your inventory, there’s another use for it. At the end of the game, a fairly long way from the start, your inventory will be entirely empty.

I won’t give anything more than that away, except to wish you good luck. The joy of this game, as it is in any great adventure game, is the delight at finding things and figuring things out for yourself. Most modern adventures are now a guided tour, not a game.

Atmosphere
 

Usually, when reviewing an independently produced “free” game, this is the paragraph where I explain that of course the game makers haven’t the resources to fashion a top-notch product the way the commercial game companies do. That was certainly the case with another clever freebie of a few years ago called Amertis, which has an intriguing story, terrific puzzles, but non-professional artwork.

Such, however, is not the case with Neutral. This game is, like all of Mya’s efforts, drop-dead gorgeous. Your jaw at least will be dropping at the exquisiteness of many of the items and rooms you’ll stumble across. Mya, as a graphic artist, takes a back seat to no one. If anything, the artwork here is noticeably superior to that of most commercial games. My favorite effect in Elements is the shadow of the windmill blade sweeping past the stained glass windows of the tower room. It’s not only beautiful and atmospheric, but serves as a tipoff about what’s going on. There’s no music soundtrack other than a brief tootle to announce key events, but the sound effects are expert and, at times, important clues. Reportedly, Mya spent three or four years creating this new game, and it shows.

Final Thoughts
 

I cannot think of a single criticism of this game. It’s as close to perfection as I have ever seen in a game of any type. On the various game-discussion sites there have been some comments that there are one or two bugs in it.  I played through without encountering any problems. Sometimes, with online Flash games, it makes a difference on which browser you load it. Also, make sure you have the most recent version of Flash. One of the kinks cited involves forgetting to refill your watering can after the first time you use it. So, now you know about that one.

Most room escapes are playable in under an hour. Elements is much longer. It took me about six hours to complete. There is a save button that will allow you to reload the game as of that point. Just remember not to erase your browser cookies if you intend to return to the game later. Also, English and Japanese versions are available, but there’s virtually no difference other than a few game instructions at the start.

I noticed that more than a few of the commenters on the Flash gaming sites mention that Elements reminds them of Myst. While Elements isn’t a Myst clone, the two games do share a similar “feel,” largely because of their mutual love of beautiful graphics and inventive puzzles. I certainly hope it won’t be another four or five years before Neutral produces another “big” escape game, but it’s likely that until then Elements will reign as the new supreme example in its category. I award Elements a final grade of A plus

 
Grade: A+
 
First major room-escape game from the brilliant Mya (of Neutral) in four-and-a-half years.
Exquisite graphics in a textless, and thus universally accessible game.
A boatload of clever, fiddly inventory, logic and visual puzzles.
 
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