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Platform: iOS, Android
Developed by GREE, Inc., el is a story about our little character “waking up in a forgotten prison and flying off in search of purpose.” To be honest, it’s hard to decide what the story is about when it starts because it’s completely silent. Our character and the people he encounters on his umbrella flying journey is one full of beautiful music and obstacles. However, it soon becomes apparent that he is flying around and helping others get back home. During the game, the question is: where is our home?
El is a short game with twelve levels of gameplay. The first level is the introduction where he wakes up and we are taught the simple game mechanics of how to control the flying and moving around, while the last one is simply an epilogue. As the levels progress, we soon learn that the obstacles are more abundant. What starts off as single birds become flocks of insects and tall trees to even higher antenna towers. This eventually turns into a much more serious plot. Along the journey, we meet new characters that we carry and escort to their destination. There is an umbrella icon in the top left corner that shows the wear and tear of it with the use along the way and further decreasing more as we hit obstacles accidentally along the way. Since there is a constant deterioration of the umbrella, the only way to repair it is to collect the feathers strewn across the level.
There is a lot to love about el. For one, it is a story that slowly lets us understand our character even with only images in the place of conversation. The levels can be continued by watching an ad from where we failed. It’s a lot about reflex and mastering how to maneuver. The controls are easy and effective even if sometimes the obstacles seem to be designed to be impassable. However, there is also damage boost that helps.
El is an experience because it holds a heartfelt story. While we can argue that the story itself could have been better executed in a clearer way, the music itself has eight different tracks to help set the mood for the level. Having no words also allows the player to interpret the story themselves. For a free game, it’s also impressive that there are levels of difficulty to choose from in the options and the tracklist of the music is available plus a good amount of achievements to unlock. The suggestion here is that going back to play it might reap something different even if the ending doesn’t change.
El is a rare gem. It may be hard to grasp the actual story but it’s a beauty to look at and play. There is a lot of thought and heart put into this game. There’s meaning and a worthy message. It’s a little dark and the ending is one that you shouldn’t miss. There is probably more to discover in multiple tries. The true winner that instills this heartfelt experience is the brilliant music composed. To have these qualities all in a free and mobile game is rare, and for it to actually work is a more than pleasant surprise.