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Xbox Live Arcade Roundup

Elements of Destruction, Sea Life Safari, Frogger 2.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

Elements of Destruction

  • Developer: Frozen Codebase
  • Publisher: THQ
  • Microsoft Points: 800 (GBP 6.80 / EUR 9.60)

A fast-paced action-strategy game, Elements of Destruction's secret weapon is its glorious premise. You are a mad scientist, wreaking revenge on those that done you wrong using your fiendish machines that create not-so-natural disasters. Earthquakes, lightning storms and tornadoes are all at your disposal, and the prospect of being able to let rip with some fire and fury makes the game a very tempting proposition.

You direct your wrath using the left stick to guide a sparkly energy ball around the map, and select your preferred method of destruction with the right stick. Pressing A then starts the disaster, and you have a chance to power it up through stick twizzling (for tornadoes), button mashing (for earthquakes) or timed button-presses (for lightning). There are enemy forces trying to stop you, and their attacks will drain your energy, making it impossible to get busy with the mayhem. Luckily, you've had the foresight to drop charging stations around the area, and you can also nab energy from certain destroyed structures.

Each level comes with a time limit, and a shopping list of things you need to demolish. There's also a target score for the financial cost of the destruction you cause, and you need to at least attain the lowest of these to progress. Success earns you Research Points which can be cashed in for more powerful versions of your disasters.

Conceptually at least, it's a really cool idea for a game, and one that manages the not inconsiderable feat of being both original and compelling. The execution, however, lets things down a tad. Chief among the complaints would be the length of the game. With only a handful of levels, all of which last only a few minutes, there's a good chance you'll have polished off the single-player campaign within a few hours. Survival mode ekes out a little more gameplay, and the presence of both competitive and co-operative online play are fun, but they all take place on the same maps and so don't really address the game's fundamental lack of substance.

Your earthquake machine in action - now with rumble.

More ephemeral, but no less valid, are concerns that the game really isn't making the most of its engaging idea. The majority of the game sees you wreaking havoc in small towns, sprawling bases or Swiss villages and the potential for lunatic destruction is always hampered by the fact that there's just not that much to destroy. A mad scientist who restricts his evil plans to remote areas of the countryside simply isn't mad enough in my book. And, though I realise this makes me sound ghoulish, the fact that there are no people in the game rather undersells the chaos. Demolishing row after row of houses could be a whole lot more fun if there were tiny people panicking in the streets. As it is, you feel like you're trashing Toy Town.

Elements of Destruction reminded me most of games like Destroy All Humans or Stubbs the Zombie, games that also had wonderful B-movie concepts but ultimately promised more than they delivered. It's one of the few truly original games on Live Arcade, and deserves your attention for that, but it can't quite shake off the sour tang of unfulfilled potential. I sort of want to give it 7/10 on principle, but I know it's not quite there yet. A larger, beefier sequel would be most welcome, however.