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You Should Play: Side-scoller El is all about the powerful storyline

Sarah Jacobsson Purewal | Oct. 20, 2014
These days, keeping up with games can be a full-time job. So how do you separate the signal from the noise, the wheat from the chaff, the Temple Runs from the Temple Jumps? Allow us to help by regularly selecting a game You Should Play.

These days, keeping up with games can be a full-time job. So how do you separate the signal from the noise, the wheat from the chaff, the Temple Runs from the Temple Jumps? Allow us to help by regularly selecting a game You Should Play. 

It's rare to find a mobile game that's as simple, refined, and free as Gree's new side-scroller, El. El is an effortless take on the side-scrolling flying game with beautiful artwork and a powerfully moving plotline. 

You play as El, a young boy who wakes up in a mysterious, "forgotten prison," and "flies off in search of purpose" with the help of a magical umbrella. The game uses simple touchscreen mechanics — to open the umbrella and lift El into the air, you tap and hold the right side of the screen. To manipulate the wind and create a draft, you swipe side-to-side on the left side of the screen. Although most levels can be completed without much draft-work, it's a useful technique if you're interested in avoiding tricky obstacles and minimizing damage to your character.

El isn't your typical mobile game: For one thing, it's wholly uncompetitive — the levels are only moderately challenging, and there are no bonuses awarded for completing the game at a higher difficulty. While El may not satisfy your lust for competition or endless gameplay, it's absolutely worth a look for the following reasons: 

The simple, yet powerful storyline: I'm not usually a fan of plot-driven games, since I prefer challenges and puzzles to interactive stories. But El does an excellent job of balancing its poignant storyline, which is told in a series of wordless, film-style cut-scenes at the end of each level, with moderately challenging gameplay. El's story takes you through a depressingly realistic tale of hope, help, and finding one's purpose in life. 

The game is only 12 levels long, including a quick tutorial level and a simple finale. As you play through El, you'll see why the game limits its competitive vibe — the point is for you to fly through the story, rather than focusing on beating time limits or making it through unscathed. El does feature a life meter, however, in the form of a top-down view of an open umbrella, which diminishes each time you tap and hold to open your umbrella and fly. Hitting obstacles, such as birds and trees, will shrink your meter more quickly, while collecting glowing feathers will offer you extra flying power. There are no bonuses for avoiding obstacles or collecting feathers — only making it through to the end of the level matters.

Thoughtfully designed: El has a distinctly indie feel, and it's free, but that doesn't mean the developer skimped on artwork, sound, or overall polish. El, other characters, and foreground obstacles (birds, bombs, and buildings) are represented as shadows silhouetted against ombre watercolor backdrops. Each level features a different, fully detailed landscape for El to fly through — one level has trees and rock formations, while another is a battleground full of tanks and ground-mounted machine guns. 

 

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