Elefunk is a PSN game made by 8bit. The basic premise of the game is to help one or more elephants to cross one or more chasms. This is done by using girder pieces that are allotted to you at the beginning of each level, as well as ropes for suspension bridges. Once you have created your metal or wooden monstrosity, you simply press start and the physics engine of the game takes over as your elephant or elephants take a leisurely stroll across your 2d engineering masterpiece. There is a slight story about some elephants being kidnapped for a circus, but it is pretty inconsequential and I largely ignored it during my play through since it is really only shown at the beginning of the game and at the end.
During a normal level, you will be allotted a given number of pieces that show up in a row on the upper left corner of the screen. You can cycle through all of these pieces using the L1 and R1 buttons. Before placing the piece down with the X button you have the option to flip it any number of ways using R2 and L2. For setting up ropes you need to press X to attach it to one point, and then X again to attach the other end to another point. The strategy of the game is to try and create the sturdiest structure using nodes that are set in the background. You always want to keep track of where these nodes are (they look like large metal circles) as these are important points that you will use to hold up your bridge in some way, whether it’s attaching ropes from your bridge to the node to act as suspension bridges, or simply using triangular pieces to fix your bridge to the node. Later in the game these structures can get incredibly complex, as you have to set the bridges path, and then use a highly limited stock of pieces to get multiple elephants all the way across the screen. I was surprised at how much this game had me thinking back to my days of Physics classes in college, trying to think of where the force lines were going and how to brace the bridge correctly.
See the larger metal circles? Those are the nodes.
The game is not solely bridge building though, as there are a few sources of variety. Throughout the regular missions, you will have some levels where instead of your elephant walking to his destination, he instead is dropped and rolls along the set path. In these stages, it is not enough to simply get your elephant to the exit, but you also have to collect all of the golden elephant statues that are along the path. This mode can seem like a lot more trial and error than the previous bridge building sections, as you try again and again to get the right balance of structural integrity, while allowing your elephant to collect all of the statues in one go. It can get quite frustrating at times since it is harder to figure out how to fix an issue like the elephant bouncing over a single statue on its path.
There are also bonus rounds at the end of each set of themed levels that basically amount to your elephant doing an Evel Knievel style jump to a far away target. For these rounds, you will first set the angle of the ramp using the six axis controls (which I had no issues with) and then you’ll be given 10 seconds to shake the controller to get “boost” which you then use to propel your elephant to his destination. These rounds were an interesting break from the regular missions and a welcome change of pace, if only for a few minutes.
The last play mode is multiplayer, which basically amounts to an elephant themed Jenga. You will start with a large structure supporting one or more elephants, and then each turn you or your opponent will delete a single girder. Once you delete your girder, the game will start the physics engine and give ten seconds to see if the tower falls due to the weight of the elephants. If the tower remains unbroken then the next person will have their turn, and the first player to break the structure loses.
Someone didn't brace their bridge correctly......
The technical presentation of the game was fairly average. I noticed a few bugs during my play through, an example of which is a rope that snapped on my bridge, that proceeded to swing around and then fling my elephant about 50 feet. Now I’m no physicist, but I can’t imagine the speed a piece of rope would have to be travelling to do that to an elephant. These bugs were in no way detrimental to the actual gameplay, but they did show a certain lack of polish to the game. The menus did their job and were in no way confusing, with several options such as time trials and looking through the top scores of other PSN members.
Visually the game takes a cuter approach to character design that was at some level endearing. All in all the graphics were utterly average, not going for any particular artsy design, while also not attempting for extreme realism, they serve their purpose while being in no way remarkable.
The audio presentation of the game is highly simplistic. The sound effects are as you would expect, with some elephant noises for when they happen to fall, and noises accompanying your placing girders. The music is extremely repetitive when you sit down and listen to it, but one way that the music does succeed is that I never actually realized how repetitive the music was until I sat down and specifically listened to it. During my play through of the game, I never actually noticed the music at all, so at least it wasn’t a detriment to the gaming experience.
Gameplay is probably very much hit and miss for people. This is a niche title, with a unique puzzle design that some may find enjoyable like I did, while others will get tired of it within moments. Luckily there is a demo available and I highly suggest you try that out beforehand. All in all the gameplay was well done and achieved what it was trying for, but I wish there had been some more variety in the challenges and perhaps some more variety in the types of pieces available. Also I would prefer if they either scrapped the elephant rolling sections that I mentioned above, or at least did not force the player to play through them to advance the game, as I found them highly random and much more difficult to reason your way through than any other section of the game. These sections negate the point of a puzzle title, as they were mostly guesswork.
Value is where the game really shines, because in the US the game is only 5 dollars for the full version. For 5 dollars you get 20 regular stages, 4 bonus stages, and a fairly enjoyable multiplayer. My only qualm on a value front is that the number of stages can start to seem very limited once you have played through them all, but this can be alleviated by trying to get a high score, which involves using as few pieces as possible and solving the puzzle as quickly as you can. I think that most people that enjoy the demo, will definitely find enough in the full game to satisfy their 5 dollar expenditure.
Overall, Elefunk is a very enjoyable puzzle game with very below average presentation, that may force some gamers to think about force directions for the first time since High School Physics, and is definitely worth the 5 dollar admission fee for anyone who enjoys a good puzzle.