For the average kid, learning to tie shoelaces and ride a bicycle are rites of passage. Huna, the underage hero of Elemental Hero, has a lot more on his plate battling soulless creatures, conjuring elemental forces, and navigating dangerous environments.
As if the quest to eradicate an ancient evil with elemental forces doesn't stretch the imagination far enough, casting a pre-teen in a leading role that would have an experienced adventurer like Indiana Jones quaking in his shoes does the trick.
It's odd design choices like this - a main character to which only a 12-year-old can relate - that chip away at Elemental Rage, preventing this solid 2D action game from being a great adventure.
Don't be such a child
Too much energy is spent on the old gaming trope of the unlikely kid hero and not enough on developing the fresh ideas Elemental Rage brings to the table.
Sitting through dialogue in which Huna works through hesitation about embarking on a quest to save the world or whether his parents are worried about his whereabouts is a drag, particularly when there's good gameplay to be had.
The story itself isn't terrible, but the characters are annoying cliches - especially Huna.
At least he's enjoyable to control. You can level strong attacks using a staff and jump a good height depending on how long you press on the virtual button. By collecting elemental forces, you're able to unlock additional abilities such as double-jump, fire shot, and the ability to move special stones.
You can also acquire temporary weapon power-ups that boost attack range and power, even letting you fire ranged energy attacks from your staff. One hit from an enemy wipes your power-up, which is great because it forces you to stay on your toes and rewards you for playing skilfully.
Combat, platforming, and exploration meld to form a diverse style of gameplay not unique to Elemental Rage, but undeniably enjoyable. There's enough action to keep you entertained, enough platform to challenge your reflexes, and plenty of rewards to keep you invested in the experience.
The level design is of particular note, largely surpassing other attempts at cloning Castlevania on iOS. Not only is the scope and scale large, but the intricacy of the layout is such that you're encouraged to explore without feeling overwhelmed. If anything, there aren't enough secret areas and bonus items to find, making Elemental Rage a simpler homage.
Problems do exist with the level design, unfortunately. There are too many blind falls that lead to death, and the smaller iPhone and iPod touchscreen only exacerbates the issue.
Who's the boss?
There are few boss battles, although that's a good thing because what few there are are unpolished. For example, the first boss - a towering fire giant that pounds his fists on the ground and hurls meteors at you - doesn't provide visual feedback when attacked, making it impossible to know if you've dealt him any damage.
Fighting enemies is frequently awkward due to the prevalence of flying creatures and rigid controls.
Hitting an enemy hopping along the ground is easy enough given the controls, but manipulating Huna to jump and attack an enemy in the air is trickier. It just doesn't feel tight and more often than not you end up jumping into the creature rather than hitting it.
These issues don't ruin Elemental Rage, but they highlight a need for attention to detail. Developer Oniric Games clearly has talent and the potential to craft something extraordinary if it learns to polish its concepts fully.