Have you got long pointy ears? Do you enjoy an early morning run in the local forest?
Elf gives you the chance to exercise these needs, and by placing you in the boots of Cornelius, an Elf with a mission.
He has to save his girlfriend from the clutches of evil "Necrilous the not very nice" before he boils her in a large bubbling vat of oil.
To accomplish this you first have to negotiate eight levels of platforms and ladders. Naturally (well, for a platform game) life's made more complex by the various nasties, who you have to avoid or shoot. The assorted monsters' only purpose in life is to hinder yours, and they're stunningly good at their job. Touch a nasty and it drains some of your precious energy - ie you die a bit.
While busily bashing goblins you're expected to pick up various herbs and animals (or pets as they're known) so that you can trade with the local shop keepers. In the shops that litter Elfland, these pets can be exchanged for various power ups ranging from extra shot speed/power, extra lives, magic spells to very useful flying machine: a must for anyone wanting to avoid trouble and stay 'elfy'...
This isn't a run of the mill platform romp, though, where you go from one end of the game to the other. Certainly not, you don't get it that easy. In Elf you have to collect objects to help other folk with their problems and in return they will give you items that solve yours. For example, you have to get a chicken - which just so happens to be conveniently places on a ledge - for a grand old sage. Being an irritable old cuss he also wants it cooked, so you then have to find the matches and the cooking spit, which isn't easy.
The graphics are drawn in a high gloss cartoon style, with the backgrounds well suited to their respective levels. Overall, Elf is quite a cutie, but not to the Rainbow Islands sickeningly cute extreme. But don't think just because it's got a cartoon-like look, it's going to be easy, it's not! Even though it looks pretty it proves gruesomely tough at times and is more than a match for even hard-core gamers.
The sound's also good with the option to play with music or spot effects. Go with the effects, it's not because the music is naff, far from it, as it's an excellent firr, it's just that it becomes a bit repetitive. The sound effects are the better option, if only whenever you kill something it lets off a blood curdling scream and the shots would sound at home in the middle of a Star Wars movie: very nice indeed.
The overiding impression that Elf gives is one of size. The first level alone takes ages to complete but luckily there's a save game option at the end of each section. This adds to Elf's long term appeal. The only gripe about Elf is that the difficulty curve is, very steep, like vertical. It's too hard for those who fancy the occasional arcade blast, but really challenge the die hard platform freaks.
Amiga Format, Issue 28, November 1991, P.78
Was kann man schon von einem Platformspiel erwarten, dessen Hintergrundgeschichte mal wieder das tausendfach gehörte Märchen von der entführten Freundin auftischt? In diesem Fall erstaunlich viel!
So dürftig die Story auch sein mag, der Rest vom Fest ist nämlich über (fast) alle Zweifel erhaben.
Zunächst einmal bietet Elf all das, was eigentlich jedes vernünftige Platformgame bieten sollte:
Acht farbenprachtige, riesengrosse Level voller Fantasy-Gegner wie Hexen und Riesenspinnen, besonders dicke Schlussmonster, Sammelobjekte, Extrawaffen und Shops.
Mit 'nem bisschen Klettern (auf Leitern), Rumhüpfen, (über Felsen), Kämpfen und Sammeln ist's hier nicht abgetan.
In den meisten Spielabschnitten darf dazu noch eine ganze Reihe vertrackter Puzzles gelöst werden: Im ersten Level muss man etwa Getreide einsammeln und einem Vogel überreichen, damit der eine Feder herausrückt. Die bringt man wiederum einem Indianer, der sich dafür mit einer Zeitung revanchiert. Diese schleppt man flugs zu einem Herrn, der gerade auf dem stillen Ortchen sitzt, wofür man zur Belohnung eine Packung Streichholzer erhält. Selbige werden benötigt, um... na, Ihr habt sicher schon langst kapiert, dass man hier nach bester Action-adventure-Manier herausfinden muss, wer welchen Gegenstand haben will.
Grafik und Sound sind von erster Gute, die Joysticksteuerung lässt keine Wünsche offen, und das Gameplay ist ausgefeilt bis ins Detail (man kann sich z.B. auch mit anderen Personen unterhalten). Mit einem Wort: Elf ist gut! Umso unverständlicher, warum man auf Scrolling ebenso verzichten muss, wie auf eine motivierende story... (C. Borgmeier)
Amiga Joker, October 1991, p.40
New development companies are fairly common-place, but it is very rarely that their wares are up to the standard of Elf.
Written by newcomers, Nirvana Systems, Elf combines Pyjamarama-style arcade/adventure puzzles with some of the prettiest graphics this side of Nutwood.
In addition, supporting this top-notch presentation are a plethora of brain-squeezing puzzles, rounding off one of the best games in this crowded genre.
In fact, the only down-point of the whole game is the rather staid scenario. All is not well in the magic woods. Although the sun shines brightly and the furry little animals of the forest ar hopping around merrily, a sense of foreboding strikes at the heart of Cornelius the Elf. And, indeed, calamity is just around the corner. Elisa, the light of Cornelius' heart, has been captured by Necrilous The 'Not Very Nice'. Surely one of the understatements of the year, considering mad schemer is planning on giving Elisa a barh in a boiling vat. 'Frying tonight!' as Kenneth Williams said during a similar situation in Carry on Screaming.
Elf must be the nearest thing to an environmentally friendly game. Selective killing is an important feature, which means the player must be selective in their destruction.
A cuteness rating keeps score of the number of twee characters shot, and there's much hissing and booing if you kill wee beasties such as butterflies. However, losing popularity is not the only drawback. Although it is still possible to complete the game, if you've shot too many defenceless animals, you may not be privileged to see the full end sequence. So the moral of this tale is don't be a meanie, and be kind to cuddly animals.
There are eight levels of forest, ruins, swamps to wade through before reaching the Castle of Necrilous, where Elisa is being held. It is at this grim fortress that you must locate and destroy the winching mechanisms used to lower innocent victims to their deaths. On your journey, you will find many useful objects scattered about the landscape. Collecting herbs and pets will allow you to purchase pieces of equipment from the shops that are secreted throughout the game. Valuable commodities include power-ups, three-way fire, a magic force field and a flying machine. It's also possible to buy inane hints. These include gems as 'Never eat pickles if you want to keep friends' and other such banalities.
A rather nice twist to the fairly traditional gameplay comes at the end of each stage. Outwitting the end-of-level guardians involves serious brainstorming, rather than a twitchy trigger finger. And the necessary puzzles are enjoyable and funny, containing more than an element of toilet humour! Defeating these guardians at the end of the levels endows Cornelis with a green crystal, which will prove essential for gaining access to Necrilous' chamber. Similarly, a bonus is awarded at the end of each level, and is calculated by the number of bonus objects collected. Bonus objects are the small tokens dropped when monsters are shot. Hearts can be collected - not in the romantic sense - but for an increased health rating. Sharp shooters will prosper in this game, too, with an extra life awarded every 100,000 points.
A Kult-like element of this game occurs when encountering objects which may serve an important later on in the game. An interactive panel will give options such as 'give', 'bribe' and 'identify'.
It is also possible to talk to the characters you meet, but the conversations are short, oneword affairs.
Elf is an extremely enjoyable game with many riddles and cocundrums to sort through, it has an elfin charm all of its own. For people who think that small is beautiful, Elf wil live happily ever after in the fairy kingdom.
CU Amiga, August 1991, pp.76-77