About an Elf – Review
Follow Genre: Point-and-click adventure, visual novel
Developer: Meringue Interactive LLC
Publisher: Meringue Interactive LLC
Platform: Switch
Tested on: Switch

About an Elf – Review

Site Score
7.8
Good: Well-written humor that is all over the place
Bad: Gameplay loop can get very repetitive
User Score
9.5
(2 votes)
Click to vote
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Rating: 9.5/10 (2 votes cast)

We’ve reviewed our fair share of weird games, many of which hail from the stable of nakana.io, but none of them quite reach the same level of strangeness as Meringue Interactive’s debut title About an Elf. It’s definitely not the easiest title to review, as it’s so far out there that we don’t even fully comprehend what we played. The game’s trailer gives a fairly good impression of what to expect in terms of humor but as you’ll find out as you read on, it’s only the tip of the iceberg of what About an Elf has to offer.

Story

Oh, where to begin with this one? Our story, which is told in visual novel-style, is all over the place. Our unlikely heroes are the titular elf, Dam, and her apprentice Roland the Bravecat. Dam also acts as our unreliable narrator as she tells her adventures to her best friend Dido, in exchange for Gummy Bears. Dam claims to be a princess, though whether she’s actually of royal descent is never confirmed. She was just told by her grandfather that she was a princess when she was little and rolled with it ever since. Princess Dam’s goal is to make Elftopia happen, and in order to do so, she must travel to the four worlds and get rid of the monsters that currently reside there. What exactly Elftopia entails is something Dam herself can’t quite explain, but she is convinced that it’s fantastic.

In a nutshell, the basic story premise is pretty standard: you’ve got your heroine that needs to travel around the world to defeat evil monsters and make a good thing happen. However, things quickly take a turn for the absurd, and the events that unfold are almost impossible to explain. Rest assured though, there is some logic to this trippy insanity and the end result is very funny. About an Elf isn’t just weird for weirdness’ sake: It knows what it’s doing and expects players to go along with it. It does require a specific mindset to get into, but when you are in that mindset, then what appears in front of your eyes transcends a video game and becomes art instead. It’s wonderfully written, with some genuinely clever jokes and a cast that will grow on you, but it really needs time to deliver on what it sets up. In a vacuum, the game’s humor comes across as “lol random” but looking at About an Elf as a whole reveals a carefully crafted journey that we’ll gladly revisit in the future.

Graphics

One thing that About an Elf absolutely has going for itself is the striking visual art style, which mixes edited photographs with 3D models. The animation is deliberately janky, which adds to the otherworldliness of the game. The result looks like a modern collage, vaguely reminiscent of the animations seen in Monty Python, except with far more vibrant colors. Humanoid characters, both Elves and the menagerie of enemies are presented through photos with exaggerated poses, and the only thing that differentiates the different enemy types is the masks they are wearing.

Sound

Just like the story and the visuals, About an Elf’s soundscape is hard to pin down, although the music is very catchy and we found ourselves occasionally taking a break from tapping A to progress through the text simply to appreciate the beats. The music can shift from dramatic classical cello tunes to trashy Eurobeat in a matter of seconds, but surprisingly, it all fits the zany antics of Dam and her friends. There is no voice acting present -unless you count Roland’s meowing- and dialogue is delivered through Animal Crossing-esque gibberish instead.

Gameplay

By this point, you’ve probably realized that About an Elf doesn’t fit any conventional molds, so fully describing what the gameplay is actually like isn’t easy without experiencing it for yourself. Developer Meringue Interactive describes it as “point-and-click-ish, RPG-ish, visual-novel-ish game of gigantawesome proportions.” but we feel the sum of the individual elements doesn’t quite cover the sheer insanity that unfolded once we got to grips with the game. A playthrough will take you roughly five hours, though we wouldn’t blame you if you don’t finish it in a single setting, because despite the relatively short length, the sheer amount of things happening on-screen in a matter of minutes can become a bit too much.

The visual novel aspect takes up the majority of About an Elf’s gameplay, so most of the time you’ll be busy reading and making choices that affect the flow of the story, earning Gummy Bears in the process. These Gummy Bears can be used as a continue should you screw up and be defeated in combat. The point-and-click aspect is less fleshed out than we’d like and as a result feels inconsequential and somewhat pointless, as you’ll simply be randomly tapping around the screen until you find something that you can interact with instead of putting thought into what and why you are doing so -unless you’re clicking enemies, which will let you fight them.

Fighting the monsters that Dam wants to get rid of involves a very simplistic combat system, which is modeled after rock-paper-scissors. Dam uses elemental attacks, and each enemy has a specific weakness. The challenge lies in figuring out which attack to use against which monster. This is done by correctly interpreting an abstract vision before you launch your attack. For example, you’ll be presented with an image of a hot dog, which translates into a fire attack, because it’s a “hot” dog. The visions become increasingly difficult to figure out as you progress through the game, and you’ll need to really follow the game’s internal logic to come out on top in battle. Most of them make some sense, although we never quite understood why the close-up of a cat’s face shown above matched the water attack.

There are some minor hiccups that prevent About an Elf from achieving true greatness. The excellent writing and presentation cannot hide the fact that the actual gameplay experience is a shallow affair. Given the overall scope of what About an Elf sets out to deliver, we can’t hold the game to the same standard as a title that focuses entirely on gameplay, such as Century: Age of Ashes, but playing through the point-and-click sections and the combat can feel repetitive, especially on subsequent playthroughs where you try and unlock a different ending. We also feel like the sidequests could have been fleshed out a little more or at least provide something more meaningful than the setup for a joke.

Conclusion

The thing with games like About an Elf is that they are divisive and that people will either love them or hate them. We definitely fall in the former category, despite that we realize that there are a few flaws and that the game isn’t perfect. It’s hard to describe the entirety of the game without experiencing it for yourself, but thankfully this is the kind of game that you already know whether or not it’s up your alley simply by looking at it. If you’re enthralled by the screenshots and the game’s trailer, then there is a good chance that you’ll absolutely adore what About an Elf has to offer, but if your first thought is that this is nonsensical trash, then your best bet is to stay far away.

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Rating: 9.5/10 (2 votes cast)
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About an Elf - Review, 9.5 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
SebastiaanRaats


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