Sometimes, you just need a good way to advertise a game in order to sell it. I personally never get hyped by scenes that are obviously not gameplay footage, as they do not inform me properly what I should be excited about. However, ElecHead had me in a heartbeat with its store page showcasing only gameplay clips of its main concepts, explaining everything through visual means. Because of this, I was too curious to pass it up and had to give it a go.
What a bright idea!
Playing as a small battery creature that can affect surfaces with electricity by merely touching them, you set out to give the Earth a helping hand when it goes into total blackout. In this linear platformer, you have a simple jump and can slide alongside vertical structures, with the ability to toss your head being acquired early on. Already from the start, this indie title demonstrates its brilliance by making its layouts tell you about its setups, such as how there is no fall damage and that you are able to teleport to previous locations through the start menu.
The idea of showing and not telling continues throughout ElecHead, with every single obstacle course delivering clever concepts using its gimmicks. You might have to detach your noggin to get your body through tiny areas or watch patterns in order to not be electrocuted, to name some straightforward examples. This leads to more subtle elements used for making the platforming segments into neat puzzles, like having your brain being the source of power and activating anything it comes into contact with or the fact that your body can only live for 10 seconds without its head.
While I cannot say this is a challenging game, it is always creative with a bunch of imaginative level designs that make you think about how to progress. You might get stumped at times, but never too long thanks to keeping your core abilities at a focus. By also requiring the player to tinker with the environments and testing their skills in accurate jumping simultaneously, this puzzle platformer excels at combining the two genres. There are not even any enemies around, just hazards to be aware of, which makes the lovely stages shine even brighter.
Despite lasting around one hour give or take, Elechead is a blast from start to finish and introduces so many clever layers to its level designs by each area, that I honestly cannot fault it on anything. The controls are responsive, all of the protagonist’s abilities are used for smart stage layouts, the difficulty curve is wonderful, and even subtle elements like not being able to wall jump or checkpoints resetting a room’s structure are all made for good reasons. This is simply a magnificent platformer that offers exactly what it advertises, with everything being executed with quality.
Gameplay Score: 10/10
Utilising only a few colours was an excellent move to emphasise what a cold world you are in, where the lone source of light is your own head as a nice contrast. All three places within this title have a form of fitting structure to this setup, be it the metallic walls, watery pipes or construction borders. It might not be diverse, but this helps to give this tiny universe a clear tone without becoming artistically stale. This is further enhanced by commendable details, such as drops leaking from the ceiling or the electricity going alongside any surface you touch.
Though the little battery man should be highlighted too, as he is adorable with his looks and even shuts down if you are not controlling him. Combine this with using billboards and visual elements to tell about the levels, and this is quite the atmospheric indie game. Enriching this world onwards, are the sound effects surrounding your lonely character. Whether it is the different echoes occurring when jumping on the varied platforms or gears grinding as they move, there is always industrial audio filling these empty places beautifully.
As for the music, it embraces this style as well. Going with a bit crushed tune, every melody offers a distant tone using appropriate sounds, like metal clinging onto each other or digitised beats. What is also fascinating, is how the tracks go from having some simple notes to utilising multiple ones, ending with a bombastic version of the original theme to signify how far you have come. It really is bewitching having this ominous soundtrack being upgraded through clear changes, and the jingles for collecting secret items are just as satisfying to listen to!
Presentation Score: 8/10
Now, where is that remote?
Throughout this journey are hidden places to uncover that holds either a remote or a pallet. These lead to exhilarating stages that truly will test your platforming skills and need a keen eye in order to get these trinkets, providing fantastic rushes of adrenaline. With 20 gold remotes and 10 pallets to find, I do wish there was a map available for convenience sake. It does help that you can warp between the areas and that the pause screen lets you see where there are remotes left to discover, but there is nothing for the pallets. Gathering all of the remotes unlocks another ending and each of the pallets offers a new colour filter, but despite these rewards sounding solid, they are not entirely fulfilling.
Both endings are somewhat confusing and they feel more like bizarre and fun takes on the plot than anything else. The pallets are also problematic, but rather because of taste. Changing the colours do little to give this project a new atmosphere that works, even if I do admire the black and white format or the green GB look. Because of this, I always went back to the original setup due to it fitting the title’s theme the best with its cold blue and warm yellow electricity. Still, it should be reiterated that just searching for these items led to some amazing level design, making me complete everything out of sheer enjoyment. Even if it took only one extra hour to do so.
Extra Score: 9/10
Elechead is pretty much what I seek in an indie game made with love: focused design choices. All of the stages were created with the core mechanics in mind, the world has a memorable atmosphere, its soundtrack is gorgeous, and there are great reasons to come back for multiple visits. While it might not be perfect in every region, it is incredibly close to it and should not be ignored by anyone. It will definitely brighten your day.