The DS definitely has more than its fair share of match-three titles, and it finally looks as if they're making the jump across to the 3DS.

While they may well be available in droves, only the best examples manage to find the right balance of accessibility and depth.

It also helps to mix up the traditional match-three formula, which is exactly what 4 Elements does.

Spot the difference

The action is set in an ancient fantasy world where evil has corrupted the four elemental fonts of life, and it's down to you to restore their powers by gathering the four magical books and 16 mystical cards necessary to banish evil.

Of course, you do all of this through the power of matching three or more tiles – because that's clearly how magic works.

That isn't all you'll be doing, though, as 4 Elements lets you partake in a spot-the-difference game on every one of the 16 mysterious cards you attain every five levels.

You'll also need to partake in a room-search puzzle at the start of each book as you hunt high and low for a magical key to unlock each book's clasp.

These are novel ideas, and they serve to vary the pace of play a little - but they're they're never anything more than mild distractions, and they don't fit very well on the 3DS's screens. Of course, this second complaint is less of an issue on a 3DS XL.


Thankfully, the match-three mechanics that form 4 Elements's core are solid and refreshingly different.

Each level tasks you with creating a channel for some life-giving magic to flow down towards a withered portal at the end of the stage.

Instead of switching out different coloured gems to clear the board, you need to link together three or more identical stones to open up a path for that aforementioned magic.

Creating a chain longer than five creates a little explosion on the last stone, thus clearing more space and removing potentially troublesome gems. The more links you create beyond five the bigger the explosion becomes.

Things are kept interesting across the many, many levels by the presence of obstacles to work around and magical arrows that clear a path in whatever direction they point in.

Yes, 4 Elements is another match-three puzzler. It looks generic, it belongs to an oversubscribed and arguably tired genre, and it even has a dull name. But if you look beyond the unprepossessing surface you'll find a few fresh elements.