Being human, I value my intelligence. Because humans understand written and verbal communication, we can, with our opposable thumbs, build incredible machines, and even tap into our genetic coding. It’s therefore no great surprise that homosapiens are the dominant species on this planet. And, that said, if you value your intelligence, do not play Elf: The Movie. Amazingly, the experience will actually lower your I.Q. and even possibly send the human race hurtling back down the evolutionary chain about 3,000 years.
How this game even came by its development green light is a total and utter mystery. Granted, Will Ferrell is a funny actor and comedian, but he simply does not belong in videogames. Players take control of Ferrell’s Elf character in side-scrolling and overhead levels to conquer the game’s two lowly objectives: jump over water and dodge polar bears. That’s it! Elf cannot attack, run, crouch, or even scroll the screen forward to see what lies ahead. Only one button on the GBA is used during the entire game.
Before each level, the game informs the player what he or she must do for successful completion – as if you could not figure it out for yourself. For example, the game laughably tells you to ?Watch out for polar bears’ or ?Jump across the water’. However, there’s never any clear explanation for why you must do these things. The only inclination towards a story is displayed through a single screenshot of the movie before the game starts – there isn’t even a worded narrative thread for you to follow. How on Earth can a two-hour movie be summed up in a single screenshot? One level tasks the player with collecting the letters that spell the name ?New York’. Why? Why must we collect these things? If only I knew?I wish someone would tell me.
Because Elf’s only physical in-game action is to jump, levels are entirely based around it. The occasional enemy polar bear that walks back and forth across the screen is truly a vicious beast. Jumping over this creature is actually quite difficult because Elf’s jump is both unresponsive and low in height. During a later level, the screen switches to an overhead view where the player must – once again – jump from iceberg to iceberg. However, the collision detection is defective and players will find themselves repeatedly falling through the stationary ice platforms. Plus, when Elf incurs damage, he magically transports back to the last checkpoint – which can be a fair distance away. Yes, Elf has a health bar, but when it’s depleted the game shows the player a message of ?Do not give up’ and restarts the level. As if the player would want to continue.
Another good example of Elf’s substandard game design lies in the jellybean jumping. In one particular level players are forced to jump on these pumpkinesque jellybeans, which act like trampolines and give Elf more height with each successive jump. But since the game’s camera does not scroll manually, the player will be left jumping blind. This supposedly simple task of jumping from one platform to the next is one of the most challenging parts of the game.
To try and increase the replay value of the game, its developers have included three mini-games that will likely rot your brain instead of teasing it. Putting snowmen together and placing shoes in boxes do not invoke a strong sense of interactive fun. The mini-games, as well as Elf’s central ?story’ mode, are strictly single-player experiences.
The gameplay in Elf: The Movie is a strong candidate for worst gameplay ever, but still I was hoping that some salvation might be found through either the visuals or sound. Sadly, this is not the case. The character animations and in-game environments are lifeless; you’d find more energetic movement at a funeral service. Elf himself only has two animations: walking and jumping. He does not even have an idle animation when he is not moving, and the backgrounds lack any type of animation, too. When looking at a screenshot from the game, you perhaps should also consider it as a movie clip as well. The game – literally – has no movement. The opening ?Game Boy Advance’ text that appears when you boot up your system contains more animation than the entire game.
Elf: The Move arrives armed with only one audio track as well. The developers must have liked this track so much that they decided to loop it, nonstop, during the entire game. Even when the player dies, the music continues on its even tempo as if nothing happened. Thankfully, though, the player has the choice to turn both the music and ?sound effects’ off through the options menu. Actually, I thought I’d accidentally turned the sound effects off at one point, because I didn’t hear any but, after rechecking the options screen, I realized that, according to the options screen, the sound effects were ON. Strange, there are sound effects in this game?
As damning as it may seem, Elf: The Movie is probably the worst ever game to appear on the GBA – or any other system for that matter. In fact, even though perhaps geared for children, this title cannot really be viewed as a videogame because it is so awful. Lifeless animation, a single looped musical track, zero sound effects, and horrible gameplay concepts actually insult the intellect of young children and even the notion of ?worst videogame’ ever made. Elf: The Movie can easily be compared to medieval torture. Do yourself a favor and watch Will Ferrell’s movie version of Elf, but don’t play as him.