Despite selling extremely well, Nintendo’s Wii — or, more accurately, its software library — is not something that gets talked about a whole bunch these days.
This is largely down to the fact that its motion and pointer controls were seen by many as “gimmicky” despite how accessible they made gaming to people who had historically never picked up a controller. But, as anyone who has taken the time to get to know the Wii and its substantial library of games will know, games where you point a remote at the screen aren’t automatically “bad”… or even “casual”.
Sometimes they’re really good. Like Eledees by Konami, also known as Elebits outside of PAL regions. But I’m from a PAL region, so it’s called Eledees so far as we’re concerned!
Eledees unfolds in a storybook world where our electrical energy is produced by small creatures called, yes, Eledees. Protagonist Kai is highly resentful of these little livewires because his mother and father spend all of their time researching them, and clearly not enough time giving him their attention and affection. They do live in a very nice house, however, so clearly researching small electrical creatures is a lucrative business.
One night, a thunderstorm knocks out the town’s power, causing the Eledees to start acting very strangely and, more importantly, preventing Kai from watching his favourite TV show while his mother and father go out to investigate the problem. Rather than sitting around sulking, however, Kai takes it upon himself to round up the rogue Eledees using the “Capture Gun” his father has conveniently left lying around the place, and thus begins a highly entertaining and extremely messy quest.
Eledees is part first-person shooter, part physics puzzle and part hidden object game. Unfolding from a first-person perspective, you can move Kai’s viewpoint with the analogue stick on the Nunchuk, crouch down or stretch up using the C and Z buttons, and rotate your viewpoint by aiming the Wii Remote around the edges of the screen. If you’ve played a Wii first-person shooter before, the control scheme will be pretty intuitive; if you haven’t, there’s definitely an initial adjustment period, but it will become second nature before long.
In each level, your objective is simply to collect a certain number of “Watts” worth of Eledees against the clock, though some also complement this with requirements to avoid damage, not break things or be as quiet as possible. To capture an Eledee, all you need to do is point the Wii Remote at it and pull the trigger, at which point it will be sucked into the gun and you’ll be credited the appropriate number of Watts.
It’s not quite that simple, of course. Firstly, Eledees are worth varying amounts of Watts depending on what state they are in when you capture them, with unaware or sleeping Eledees being worth the most, panicking Eledees being worth the least. As such, for efficient level clears or high scores, you’ll want to try and sneak up on your quarry or pick them off at range as much as possible — and this gets increasingly challenging as you progress through the stages and start encountering different types of Eledees who move in different ways.
They’re not all in plain sight, either, and here’s where probably the most interesting aspect of the game comes in: its physics engine. Pretty much the entirety of every level save from its basic geometry is constructed from physics objects that the Capture Gun can pick up, pull, push and twist. This, of course, means you can absolutely wreck the joint… within certain limitations, of course.
The Capture Gun can initially only move objects up to a particular weight, but collecting “Power Eledees”, which emerge from electrical objects when you power them on after having collected sufficient watts, allows you to upgrade it. Different stages have different upper limits of weights for each upgrade level, but generally speaking, three or four upgrades of the gun will allow you to pretty much throw everything around the stage as you see fit. In the levels that take place outdoors, you can even reach a point where you can pick up houses and throw them around with sufficient upgrades.
While it’s tempting (and enormously satisfying) to just fling things around with gay abandon once you have the power to do so, it pays to be a little bit careful, particularly in the early stages where you’re confined to small rooms. A huge pile of junk gives Eledees more places to hide, and can also constrict your movement. It’s much more efficient to try and be as “tidy” as possible as you search and to work your way methodically around all the possible hiding places… but it’s hard to resist the allure of such a wonderfully tactile physics playground such as this.
The game increases in complexity at a good rate by introducing new types of Eledees, beginning with ones that simply move differently before advancing to ones you actively have to avoid hitting lest they attack you, and ones that can combine their powers with their nearby peers to take on a more dangerous, larger form. In the latter case you’ll either have to pick them up and smash them against things to break them into their component Eledees, or drop heavy things on them. Both approaches are a lot of fun, and you’ll have to use many similar skills when you encounter the powerful boss Eledees in their own dedicated stages.
Despite being a very early Wii game, Eledees is actually rather impressive. It’s rare to see games build entire levels out of physics objects — and also quite rare to see physics-centric games that have more substance to them than simply being “streamer-bait” joke experiences. And the levels are nicely designed, too — at least until you wreck them. While the in-game storytelling is very light, there’s a nice degree of environmental storytelling through the various locales Kai’s quest takes him.
From the amount of toys in his bedroom, for example, we can interpret that Kai’s parents clearly care about him enough to provide the things that he wants — though naturally material goods are no substitute for authentic parental affection. Likewise, we can determine from his office that Kai’s father is a traveller and an avid reader, with a bizarre amount of brand loyalty for Epson products. Bizarrely, there’s also a music CD lying around that sports an Activision logo for some reason, as well as numerous bottles of pills that Kai doesn’t know the purpose of.
Pretty much all of these objects can be examined up close both in-game and in a “collection” list you unlock as you progress through the game — and there’s even an “Edit” mode that lets you create your own stages with the rooms and objects you have unlocked. Sadly, at the time of writing, the ability to share levels with others online is long dead, however — but this doesn’t stop the editor being fun, particularly if you have friends over and set up a particularly fiendish or creative level for them.
The game as a whole has a ton of longevity to it. The main single-player mode sports 29 stages, each of which can be played in four different ways: the basic story mode; a “score attack” mode in which you’re automatically at full power; an “endless” mode, which is self-explanatory but great for exploring those levels that feature puzzles; and a “challenge” mode, which provides very difficult objectives against tight time limits. In order to unlock these other modes, you have to locate hidden “pink Eledees” in the main story mode stage, the third of which only spawns under certain specific conditions.
On top of that, there’s the aforementioned edit mode and even a local multiplayer mode in which one player moves the camera with the Nunchuk analogue stick as in the main game, while up to three other players compete to catch more Watts’ worth of Eledees than their opponents.
That’s a lot of game to enjoy… and a lot of really fun game, no less. It’s a reminder of a time when Konami was at its most creative and experimental, and a great example of how the Wii played host to some of the most interesting and unusual games of the early 21st century.
More about Eledees
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