Elefunk tries something different, something we’ve not really seen on the PSN yet and is a marked leap away from twin-stick shooters and the usual puzzle games. Forced to pigeon-hole, it’s halfway between Lemmings and LittleBigPlanet, with the player in control of the structural elements of the level whilst the Elephants slowly make their way across once set free. If you’ve got access to a PC, a quick download of Armadillo Run will be enough to get you in the right mind set.
So, Elefunk is a considered, thoughtful engineering puzzle, presenting the gamer with a series of chasms, rivets and fixed structural elements and offers a finite toolbox of metal supports of various sizes in addition to other materials like rope. With the limited array of items at your disposal, you’re tasked with building up the flimsy walkways enough to support the hefty elephants, against the clock and an ever decreasing score total – each element you place eats into your score so the best players will use the minimal amount of materials in the quickest time to climb the leaderboards.
There are several themes, with a few levels in each. Whilst visual changes are obvious, the game mechanics change subtly too, with the 2nd area starting the animals rolled in a ball, with a pre-determined direction and speed. Whilst the levels start of simple, additional routes, creatures and goals slowly come into play providing an ever expanding challenge, and the game is tough, even the basic tutorial took a couple of goes before we got the idea and the middle puzzle of the third theme is downright nasty.
Thankfully there are several diversions to distract the frustrated: the first theme ends in a fun minigame, shaking the Dual Shock 3 to build up speed as the elephant hurtles down a massive ski-jump, and there are time trials for the brave. Finally, a separate multiplayer game, that plays a little like a wobbly version of Jenga, challenges two players to alternately pull out supporting beams from a massive structure, the loser the one that causes the thing to topple.
Visually it’s quite a treat – everything is very solid and the environments rich and diverse, although it’s not always obvious what you’re looking at until you hit Start to get the animals moving because when building, the game is in a somewhat 2D and when trying out the puzzle it switches abruptly to show the 3d depth of your creation. We understand why this wasn’t the case when designing because the view would get messy, but some kind of transparency to foreground items would have been useful. A minor niggle, though. The sound team have done a credible job too – the music is bubbly and fitting and the various noises made by the inhabitants of each level are convincing enough.
For some reason there’s no demo on the European Store for Elefunk, but there is on the American Store so if you’re still unsure you’ve no excuse to not try it out at the very least. For anyone into their puzzle games it’s a well crafted, tough little title with decent presentation, neat controls and (hopefully) the prospect of downloadable treats in the future. See you on the scoreboards!