Help your(s)elf

Elf logo

OCEAN * £25.99 * 1/2 meg * Joystick * Out now

Where would the computer games industry be if your average boyfriend type chap behaved like he should, kept an eye on his girlfriend and din't let her get kidnapped? Lost, that's where it would be. There are more games that revolve around the idea of some guy racing around on the metaphorical white charger in an attempt to rescue his bird, sorry girl, from a fate worse than a night in the company of John Major.

But then it's a classic ideal, a romantic notion that every bloke who gets his girls nicked by someone in a dragon suit is going to chase after her. Let's be honest, if that sort of thing happened today, no fancy dress party would ever be the same again.

This kind of dilemma is what faces Cornelius, the hero of Ocean's fairy tale beat-'em-up. You must control Cornelius as he attempts the rescue of his clearly beloved Elisa, who has been abducted by Necrilous the Not Very Nice.
Now I went out with a girl called Elisa once (no, straight up), and if it was my Elisa that had been kidnapped I would have paid the bugger to keep her, not attempt to get her back. Then it would have been straight off down the local cattle market of a nightclub to pick up some other gold-digging little whore that fancied my money. Bitter? Me? Oh no!

Poor old Cornelius, under your control has the happy task of fighting his way through eight tortuous levels of ruins, forests, swamps and Christ knows what else before you even get a sniff of Necrilous' BO or the chance to take him on the ultimate showdown, the final conflict etc. etc.

Along your way you will be able to collect various items which you can use on their own or as bargaining tools in the shop to buy some really useful things like health to restore your depleted energy, chain-mail to stop the energy being depleted so quickly or advice to make sure you are going the right way. All of these items and the other weapons that can be also bought can only be obtained if the correct selection of items has been picked up through the levels.

The items are made up of eight different herbs and pets. The herbs range from Stinking Toadflax (mmmm) to Spiny Nutwert (sounds painful) or from Purple Berry Grump to Brown Horse Floot, all of which sound anything but pleasant to the nose. The pets are these rather charming little creatures that lie around the level just begging to be picked up in the same manner as some of the girls at that disco I mentioned.

One of the really nice features is the Cuteness Rating. This is an index figure that shows how many cute characters you have shot during the course of the game. As far as I am concerned the more the better.

This eight-way scrolling platform/ shoot-'em-up/exploration type thingy is one of those actually quite good non-licenced products that Ocean have been known to chuck out every once in a while. It is really good fun with loads of little puzzles that should keep the most hardened platformer going for ages.


Elf logo

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.

Elf service
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.

Sound's familiar
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 overriding 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.


Elf logo

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)


Elf logo

Ocean take a break from their normal string of film and coin-op conversions to bring platform game that's a little gentler, a little more, well, whimsical to Amiga owners.

When a couple of kids straight out of university decide to sit down, write a game, and hopefully become insanely rich overnight, you have to reckon on them making a right hash of things. After all, a thousand optimistic hopefuls have tried before, mostly armed with little more than a programming manual and ludicrous dreams of Porsche 911s and vacations in St Lucia - only to end up driving Minis and holidaying in Weston Super Mare.

That's not always the case though. Methinks that Paul Oglesby and Damien Slee - aka Nirvana Systems - have a rather better chance of dragging themselves out of the quagmire of mediocrity than most. Judging by their first project, Elf, these boys are going places.


It's bursting at the breeches with gameplay and weird humour

SO WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT THEN?
Well, it's one of those arcade adventure 'romps', which just happens to be bursting at the breeches with gameplay, nice characters, wicked bad guys and some wonderfully weird humour. We're talking eight levels of running, umping, collecting, killing, and puzzle solving fun.

The so-called story has the main character Cornelius (he's the Elf) separated from his woman by one Necrilius the Not Very Nice Guy - the rest of the game is spent wading through forests, castles, labyrinths and mountainscapes I search of his babe. Yes, plot-wise it's as corny as they come, but - hey! - at least it only took me 50 words to explain.

The first level is set in a wildly green and busy forest populated by pets and herbs (which you must collect) and wicked animals, spooks and monsters which you must shoot. Immediately, you'll notice something about the game's movement which differs from many of these platform things. Instead of the normal platform things. Instead of the normal smooth scrolling, it's all burst scrolling.

Each screen (and there are about a hundred on every level) acts as a little puzzle in its own right, and when you reach the end of the screen it shifts quickly (or in a burst) so that your character is moved into a whole new picture.

At first this effect is ever-so-slightly unnerving, but soon enough it feels perfectly natural. To add to the tension there's a time limit on each screen. Overstep your time (or indeed get killed any other way) and it's onto a wonderful death screen in which your cute character goes to the guillotine, and loses his marbles (literally).

As you run and jump through the forest you'll see lots of little characters rolling around or buzzing about. On the whole it's obvious what's a pet and what's a pest. You can pick up endless goodies and trade them in for extra lives, stronger powers, or vicious weapons at any of the shops, normally easy to find.

It's quite useful to buy invincibility ratings which, while they only last a few seconds, can get you through quite a few sections in no time at all. Or you can change into a wolf for falling great distances without hurting yourself. One nice touch is the availability of free hints in the shops. You'd think these would be there to help you get through the game, but really they're little anti-smoking messages or good living ditties. Yes, I know it sounds dreadfully self-righteous of the programmers, but it's been pulled off with sufficient tact and with to make these bon mots a nice diversion.


It doesn't have the instant appeal of something like Rainbow Islands

FOLLOWING IN AN ELF'S FOOTSTEPS
At first you're running and jumping across brooks and obstacles, heading for moving platforms and negotiating paving stones or submergable river trees. But further into the game you can buy wings (which are really a pair of shorts strapped to your back!) and with their aid get around the place much more efficiently.

Above and beyond all the romping, there is an element of adventure involved. To get form one level to another you have to interact with someone - usually a wizard - in order to talk him out of a key or whatever.

You are presented with a number of options like talk, take or attack, and it's up to you to make the sensible moves. The solutions range from the painfully obvious to the infuriatingly obscure, but either way, it's all to the good.

There is no straight route in Elf. It really is a case of explore and backtrack until you find out exactly where you need to go. The landscape goes in every direction, and on each level there's no shortage of things to do. In fact, at first it seems that there is rather too much going on, but (fussy graphics aside) it's not nearly so complicated as it first appears.

So what about some criticisms? Well, although each level is obviously set in a different place (forest, mountain or castle), it's sometimes easy to forget where you are - there really isn't enough variety between the different sections.

And, while the gameplay is more than satisfactory, it doesn't have the instant appeal of something like Rainbow Islands. Many people will have some difficulty with the cluttered look of the whole thing, and sometimes it's nigh impossible to understand what the hell is going on.

That said, I can't help feeling that it's all the little touches, tricks and extras which make this such an engrossing escapade. New creatures with funny faces are forever popping up, and if you quite enjoy these fantastic creations, it's all very holly. My only fear is that those more interested in hard core gameplay will find it all a bit twee, a bit frilly, a bit over the top.



Elf logo

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.

The graphics and design of the game are extremely good, with an impressive range of scenarios and monsters. Every level is an adventure in itself, with exciting and busy shoot'em up action. For example, the second level involves a trip to underground tunnels and deadly duels with mummies and rats.

Level three is a swampy jungle with nasty aquatic creatures out for your blood. The colours and background graphics are full of intricate details, which are enhanced by dragons who rear theit ugly heads, belching life-draining fire.

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.


MILD GREEN FAIRIES
In folklore, Fairies are supernatural beings who magically meddle in human affairs. Fairies are characteristically beautiful or handsome. It is thought that Fairies and people may become lovers, although some female fairies are deadly to their human amours. So watch out! There are many theories concerning Fairies. One is that they are spirits of the dead. A more widespread tradition is that the Fairies are Fallen Angels. They were following Satan towards hell, but were prevented from doing this and therefore remain in the forests, either helping or hindering anyone...
HEAVEN ELVES US
The origins of elves is thought to come from germanic mythology. Usually diminutive in size and of male form, Elves are often of a mischievous temperament. They have often been attributed with causing diseases and evil dreams and are perhaps best known for stealing children and substituting changelings (weak Elf or fairy children). Prehistoric implements called Elf bolts or Elf arrows were believed to be weapons with which the little imps injured cattle or unwary folk!