4 Elements (Nintendo DS) Review

By Adam Riley 03.03.2011

Review for 4 Elements on Nintendo DS

The Nintendo DS is a haven for puzzle fanatics, with numerous styles of brain-teasers gracing the system. Now Joindots’ 4 Elements has arrived on the humble dual-screen platform, courtesy of publisher Mastertronic, bringing its blend of Match-3 gameplay and mixing in other aspects to spice matters up. Is this another essential purchase for fans of the genre?

A tragedy has befallen a once rich and prosperous fairytale valley, as one day it instantly turns into a lifeless desert. The sky fills with heavy, black clouds, rivers freeze over due to the piercing cold and trees perish without any warning. Only one old and wise mage has the solution, with him bestowing the task of calming the rage of the four elements (Earth, Fire, Air, Water) and balancing the power of nature once more to you, the player. Learning more about four magical tomes with the help of a new friend and aide, a little forest fairy, will save the day.

4 Elements’ surprisingly robust story (for a puzzle game...) is accompanied by some luscious static visuals, depicting rich and colourful settings full of intricate detail that shows up very well on the small DS screen, but definitely looks best when viewed on the far larger DSi XL. Unfortunately, the side is let down when moving away from the story sections to the main game itself, with extremely average graphics for the coloured tiles that need to be cleared, as well as the location settings of each stage. There is lots of slowdown as well, especially when enough tiles have been cleared to create a path for the 'life essence' to pour through the level, as the screen then starts to automatically move along, quickly at first, then at a snail’s pace as too much action starts to go on. Seeing possible chains as the screen moves can be frustrating since trying the drag the screen back to catch them, whilst the camera forcefully pans the action, almost grinds everything to a halt.

The soundtrack attempts to be dramatic throughout, in an effort to lift the atmosphere of 4 Elements, yet unfortunately between the fact that even when the volume is reduced the DS speakers seem to struggle with the sound level, and how some samples are painfully short and repeated too frequently, the audio side of 4 Elements is often rather painful. There are glimpses of what could be a pleasing soundtrack, yet sadly the truncated nature alone of some tracks makes them an instant disappointment. However, thankfully there are one or two extended tunes that are quite pleasant indeed and give off an air of being in a relaxing, forest location.

Screenshot for 4 Elements on Nintendo DS

Rather than merely being thrown straight into the puzzle action, 4 Elements eases players in by giving them a simple ‘hidden object’ task to complete in order to find a key that will unlock the next puzzle. It is not full objects that must be uncovered, though, with the player tasked with scouring every nook and cranny of an area to find separate parts of items, which once completed can come in useful to find other pieces (such as using a completed lantern to light the stage). After a key has been obtained, the Match-3 puzzle shenanigans commence, but the usual method where tiles are switched around to match three-or-more of the same colour horizontally or vertically does not apply to 4 Elements. Instead, the player must drag the arena around on the lower screen using the stylus in order to get three or more same-coloured tiles inter-connected in plain sight. Then it is a case of drawing a line across any of the same tiles that are touching each other, either in a straight line or moving across and then up/down as necessary, as long as consecutive tiles are of the same shade.

When creating a chain of five or more pieces in a row, the end result is an explosion that blasts a new pathway for energy to flow in the right direction (as well as removing boulders and ice surrounding certain tiles). Once this objective has been completed, a set of statistics are revealed, with Level Time, Time Bonus, Longest Chain, Tiles Filled, Level Score and Total Score all recorded. There are some special moves to help on more complicated levels, such as a Spade to dig away one tile in a tight space, a Shuffle button to mix everything up when struggling to find matches, a Bomb that can be used to blast a small area clear (coloured tiles only, not the actual bricks that only disappear when three-or-more matches have been made to make essence flow), as well as a Switch icon that allows for two tiles to be swapped, whilst all the while an eye must be kept on the arrow at the side of the screen that points in the direction the essence should flow and the timer gauge. There are some instances where progress will seem impossible and a path cannot be created no matter what tiles are cleared. This is purposeful, though, to encourage the player to use the special items mentioned in order to clear spaces, whilst also creating as many coloured chains as possible to then refill the special item gauges for re-use. There are instances where sharp flying arrows must be reached, as when the magical fluid touches them, dependent on their shape, they will zoom off in various directions, taking out blocks that could otherwise have never been removed.

Once the hidden object section has been completed and a large number of Match-3 puzzles cleared for the particular ancient book of elemental magic being focused on at the time, the DS must be turned on its side for a ‘Spot the Difference,’ but there is no massive challenge since it is neither against the clock, nor are there any penalties for randomly tapping all over to find the solution. Overall, though, despite the unusual slowdown glitches, the average music and basic visuals, the core of 4 Elements is definitely appealing to fans of the genre and will keep gamers happy due to the general length of the main game and the little added extras.

Screenshot for 4 Elements on Nintendo DS

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 6 out of 10


4 Elements is yet another Match-3 puzzle effort to land in an already crowded Nintendo DS market, but is strong enough to hold its own thanks to its engaging gameplay and extra aspects to prevent stagnation creeping in. Certainly worth giving it a second glance if found at a budget price.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   


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