Nintendo’s Wii console was one of the biggest success stories in gaming history, largely due to its implementation of motion controls. Because of the console’s unique shift in gameplay, the system’s early years saw a number of games display a great sense of newness. One of these games, Elebits, may have its share of limitations, but in terms of gameplay it was a bright sign of things to come, and even some potential that was missed.
Elebits is a game in which its titular creatures are the source for humanity’s electrical power. These Elebits – creatures not entirely dissimilar to Nintendo’s own Pikmin – are tiny and come in a variety of different shapes and colors.
Players take control of a boy named Kai, who is played from a first-person perspective. Kai resents the Elebits, as his parents are researchers of the creatures and, according to Kai, they spend more of their time studying the Elebits than they do with him.
One day, a thunderstorm causes a blackout across the city, and scatters Elebits everywhere. Kai’s parents leave the boy home alone (some grade A parenting right there), and he can’t even watch his favorite TV program because of the blackout. So he decides to use his dad’s “Capture Gun” to capture the Elebits and restore power in the city.
One could say that Elebits works like an extended Wii demonstration of Half-Life 2’s Gravity Gun, as players use the Capture Gun to manipulate objects, open doors, and search for Elebits to zap. Players move Kai around with the nunchuck attachment, while they look around with the Wii remote’s motion controls and hold onto objects and zap Elebits with a Ghostbusters-like stream of energy with a push of the A button.
It’s a very simple and fun control setup, and it leaves one wondering why more developers didn’t try to build on such mechanics during the Wii’s lifetime.
Levels are completed when a certain number of Elebits (measured in watts) are captured, usually within a set time limit (though if you capture enough Elebits early, you have the option to let the clock continue so you can go for a higher score). As you capture more Elebits, you can activate various electrical objects, which unleash special Elebits that give more power to the Capture Gun, allowing you to carry heavier objects.
Completing levels unlocks new objectives, and if you accomplish certain requirements, you can unlock stages in additional modes. Multiplayer allows up to four people to race to catch the most Elebits, while Endless Mode has players tackling the stages without a time limit. Perhaps the game’s most notable feature was its Edit Mode, which allowed players to edit any of the game’s stages by placing objects and Elebits as they saw fit. For a time, players could even use online connectivity to share their created levels with others (keep in mind this was in 2006, before player created games were the big hit they are today). Unfortunately, the cancellation of WiiConnect24 means that the online sharing is now inaccessible, which might greatly dampen the game’s appeal.
The core gameplay remains mostly fun, however, due to the implementation of motion controls. Though some of the game’s physics can get frustrating at times, as opened doors and drawers often seem to close on their own as you’re trying to search them for Elebits, and it’s often hard to grab or activate the object you want as the cursor bounces from item to item in cluttered areas. And many of the game’s levels are so compact they may feel claustrophobic.
Elebits can also be somewhat of a mixed bag in terms of aesthetics. Though the game is adorable to look at, many of the sound effects become repetitious incredibly fast, and the voice acting is pretty bad.
Still, for being one of the earlier releases on the Wii, Elebits was a great showcase of how unique the system was, and much of the promise developers missed out on. The near-decade since its release has revealed some limitations, and arguably the game’s best feature is no longer functional, but Elebits remains a charming title whose concepts should be resurrected in some form or another.