Elebits Hands-On Update

Konami shows us how to use the Wii to hunt down cute electrical critters.

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We got our first look at Elebits when Konami unveiled the quirky Wii game at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo. The game tasks you with hunting down multicolored electrical critters who are slacking on their duties of powering most everything in civilization. Why have they all left after contentedly making like Energizer batteries for ages? We're not really sure, and it really doesn't matter. The bottom line is this: Someone needs to power household appliances. So guess who's going to get drafted back into service whether they like it or not? Yep. Konami showed us just how the volunteer-recruitment drive in Elebits is going to roll in an updated build at their press event today.

The elebits may not want to come back, but they're going to!
The elebits may not want to come back, but they're going to!

Though the level on display was an updated version of what was shown at E3, the game has undergone a number of tweaks that offer a better idea of how it's going to work. The core hide-and-seek mechanic remains front and center in the demo and requires you to explore the kitchen and backyard of a house. However, whereas you could knock around anything in the E3 demo, the mechanics have been slightly altered. Objects now have weight or watt constraints that require you to do some work. So, for example, you'll need a certain number of watts built up before activating certain objects, like the microwave or dishwasher, in the kitchen. At the same time, you'll need to build up the energy beam from your capture device to lift objects that now have weight values. You'll earn the necessary wattage and experience by zapping the elebits you find. While all elebits you zap are worth a certain amount of watts, specific ones are also worth experience. These special elebits will let you level up your capture device and also let you move around larger objects. The enhanced beam lets you uncover even more of the little slackers to zap. In addition to these permanent upgrades, the demo provided two temporary upgrades--a homing laser that lasted for 15 seconds and an EM pulse that stunned all the elebits in the surrounding area for a few seconds.

With these new mechanics in place, Elebits has a more structured feel and a better overall sense of progression. The demo offered a timed run to earn 1800 watts in a set amount of time. If you managed to reach that goal, you could continue to play until time ran out. At the end of the level, your score is tallied up and entered on a leaderboard. Though the leaderboard doesn't apply much to the demo of the game, reps on hand noted that in addition to the game's story mode, which will be an objective-based run to collect a set amount of watts, Elebits will feature other modes that will encourage you to replay areas for different reasons, such as collecting items or meeting other goals.

Control in the game sticks to the simple system we used at E3. You'll use the analog stick to move around and the pointing device to aim your cursor. The B button will fire your capture beam. The one thing we did notice was that the updated version didn't feel quite as twitchy as it did at E3.

The visuals in the game have also been beefed up since E3. The kitchen and backyard environments have been cleaned up and given a layer of polish. There's still a respectable amount of objects to interact with--you can move just about anything around once you've gained the wattage and experience. The effects have been focused more to offer better cues to what you're doing. Items you target are highlighted, and the ones you can interact with feature informative messages to let you know how to work them. The elebits look a little sharper and are starting to get a bit more personality, which we're glad to see. The little guys alternated between sleepy to surprised to hell-bent on getting away from you. However, they still don't have the personality of, say, Nintendo's multihued Pikmin. Still, the elebits seem to be on their way to having some 'tude, which is good. Lighting is still rough in the game, though we expect that to be sorted as development continues. In terms of performance, the game features a smoother frame rate than the last time we saw it.

Audio in the game is probably the most low-key aspect of Elebits. The demo had a bouncy feel to it thanks to a breezy tune. The effects for your capture device and the different actions you perform are tied to peppy noises that border on cartoonish. While we're not full-on fans of the effects, they're distinctive and are good cues for what you're doing.

Based on this small slice, we have to say we like where Elebits is going. The gameplay is simple but has an addictive quality that encourages exploration. Some interaction is multipart, so, for example, messing with the microwave doesn't yield much, but if you put a bag of popcorn in it and then turn it on, you'll get results. Elebits is currently slated to ship later this year for the Nintendo Wii. Look for more on the game in the coming months.

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