Version tested: Wii
You could be forgiven for thinking that Elebits was a cute, good-hearted piece of family fun, but it's really very sinister. It's all fun and games when you're gamboling around a garden, smashing pots and uprooting plants and peeking under cars, or when you're on a rampage in Dad's study pulling books off the shelves and making a glorious mess in order to drive out hordes of gleeful little electricity creatures. Elebits almost certainly go somewhere nice once they're zapped into your electricity gun, after all.
It's only in the un-timed Challenge modes that the game shows its inner darkness. Here, you find yourself spending minutes hunting around a completely destroyed house following the terror-stricken shrieks of that one remaining Elebit after you've disposed of all its friends, watching the debris like a hawk for that tell-tale twitch of a piece of broken china that belies a cowering little creature hidden beneath. Only then do the happy music, colourful presentation and joyful squeaking of Elebits fall away to reveal what is essentially a genocide-simulator, in which you find yourself ransacking a home and smashing up its contents in order to root out its last concealed inhabitants. Hardly family-friendly now, is it?
Anyway, Dewy's Adventure is proof (if any were needed) that Elebits' disturbing undertones are entirely accidental. It's from the same Konami development team, and it's the happiest game in the world. Actually it's so happy that it might make you violent. Dewy's Adventure's relentless, chirpy, squeaky, colourful happiness is the most confusing thing about the game; it suggests a young target audience, to the point where it might put older players off entirely, but the actual game itself is strangely old-fashioned. It's a linear puzzle-platformer of the sort I haven't played in years, involving precision jumping, heart-in-the-mouth leaps of faith and exhilaratingly risky detours for the sake of collecting things. If that sounds like your kind of thing, it's worth getting past Dewy's sickening sweetness, for there's a quirky, reflex-punishing platformer hidden underneath.
You control Dewy, a drop of water with a creepily babyish grin, by tilting the Wii remote around in the manner of Mercury Meltdown Revolution, jumping with A and shaking the remote either up and down or side to side to cause windstorms or earthquakes to harm enemies or solve puzzles. Far more interestingly, pressing up or down changes the environment's temperature, transforming Dewy into either a spiky ice-cube or a little mist-cloud and causing ice-blocks to melt, lakes to freeze over and other interesting effects upon the levels themselves. All the while, you're rescuing/collecting little squeaky happy things called Eaus, though they're not essential to the quest - there are 100 in each level, and finding them all is usually a fair challenge. The game's gently demanding puzzles centre around the temperature-changing mechanic, but it's the platforming challenges that prove really testing.
The key to any platformer is the control, and this, as always for Wii games, is where the controversy lies. For every person who finds Dewy's tilt-sensitive rolling about intuitive and responsive, there's someone who'll complain that it's frustrating and inconsistent. For my part, I'd put myself in the former camp. The tilt controls are greatly helped by the fact that pressing the A button instantly centres everything, bringing Dewy skidding to a stop - especially helpful in the ice form, where the a slightly too vigorous jolt can send him flying straight off the edge of the nearest platform. The tilt controls provide all-new challenges for practiced platformers, and it's all too easy to send Dewy skidding across the level with a panicked over-compensating jerk of the controller when he begins to veer off-course. It's pleasingly physical, and that sensation of heart-in-the-mouth anxiety as you make your away across an especially tricky section of a level after several failed attempts is something - I realise now - that I've been fondly missing for years.
Still, there are many people who'll find the necessary precision of control punishing and frustrating, especially on the ice levels, and may blame the Wii remote for it. I've found it frustrating in a good way - my failures have almost always had far more to do with me than with the controls. The main issues with Dewy's Adventure lie elsewhere. It's not an adaptable game, nor is it particularly varied - it is A Linear Platformer, and if you're expecting a mine-cart interlude, anything free-roaming or any element of choice at all in proceedings, you'll be disappointed. It introduces something new with each world - the jungle-world is full of cool wind-based contraptions and zip-rope puzzles, whereas the ice-world mixes ice-melting with nail-biting slippery platforming, for instance - but it's always the same at heart. It also doesn't take all that long to finish, but it's designed for replay and inherits Elebits' likeable level creation feature, which certainly lengthens its appeal.
The brilliant boss battles at the end of each world make up for the occasional lack of variety within, though. In the boss battles, Dewy's art style really hits the mark for once, and they're full of personality and charm. They put both the Wii remote and the game's environment-changing features to excellent use - not since Donkey Kong's Jungle Beat has bashing something around felt this satisfyingly physical. The sad thing is that I've found no way to replay them on their own, or indeed any particular level - a very strange error for a game that encourages fast times and high scores.
It's to Dewy's Adventure's credit that it never runs out of new ideas. Its instant appeal is not great - the first levels are somewhat basic, the over-saccharine presentation is off-putting, and it takes a few frustrating minutes to get properly to grips with the sensitivity of the control - but with each new level, the game grows on you as it introduces a new likeable gimmick or environmental feature. If you ignore the hyper-cuteness of the presentation and music, which often proves just a bit much for Western tolerances, Dewy's Adventure is a fun and innovative platformer with endearingly traditional roots. It marries the Wii's control system with good old-fashioned puzzle-platforming; its scope isn't exactly broad, and not everyone will love the controls, but any fan of this endangered genre will find something to like in its reflex-testing level geometry or amusing puzzles, if not its gaudy looks.
7 / 10