Review: ELOH30 Oct 2018 1
Released 12 Oct 2018
What is ELOH? An acronym? Is it the god of the Hebrews? Is it HOLE backwards? In a world where words no longer have stable meanings, perhaps it is simply the best (and most Googleable) name for a chilled-out puzzle game with an elegant musical twist.
Essentially, what we have here is the classic light-and-mirrors puzzle, but instead of light, you have bouncing balls and instead of mirrors you have blocks in the shape of animal heads. That sounds strange, but the aesthetic really works, especially coupled with the sound design. ELOH has a jungle theme with animal noises and drumbeats, plus a smooth, flat, totemic animation style that will look familiar if you've played any mobile puzzle game of the last five years.
At the most basic level, you're moving blocks into different set positions to bounce balls around the field from set sources into set holes. Tapping the speaker will start the stream flowing, and as the balls successfully land in the cup, a pedestal will rise from the bottom carrying your prize: the button to continue to the next level.
As the puzzles get more difficult, you get more options and tricks to work with. Some blocks can only move from one end of a track to the other and need to be carefully positioned by impeding their movement with other blocks. Others change the color of the balls, making them only able to exit the arena through the matching-colored hole. Gates allow one color of ball through but reflect the others back in another direction. While each is introduced individually, the different abilities each block brings build upon each other in natural and intuitive ways to gradually increase the difficulty and complexity of the puzzles. Each puzzle uses the building blocks in a slightly new way, keeping the game challenging but progressive.
It takes some experimentation to solve each puzzle. Some of the easier ones may be unexpectedly brute-forced, since there's a relatively limited number of states the game board can be set to. A more complicated game would give you more freedom in setting up the board, but we're dealing with a nice relaxing mobile puzzler here. It's fun to start shooting balls around at first, then deduce some of the limitations you are working with, and finally work each piece of the puzzle into its proper place. It's not too mind-twisting, but you do get nice aha moments every few puzzles.
None of the puzzles should take longer than a few minutes to bounce your way through, but there's over eighty of them, so you're looking at a few good hours of gameplay for your minimal upfront investment (No ads or IAP to be found). Since the design of the puzzles is so straightforward, it's a little disappointing there's no option to create and share your own designs: with infinite user-made levels to try, this would really be a must-buy for puzzle fans.
There's a musical element to the game, but the rhythmically-challenged can have no fear. The balls that fly around the level pop out of their trumpet to the beat. Striking each block produces a different percussive sound, and forms complex polyrhythms as a series of balls clang pop and bump off of each surface. Combined with the relaxing ambient animal sounds, the overall effect is soothing, yet also culminates in a very satisfying groove by the time you finish each puzzle. That said, there's no absolute need to play with headphones if you don't want to.
What really makes the game a pleasure to play is the amazing attention to detail. For instance, the gradual but insistent movement of the prize pedestal as you solve a puzzle feels very satisfying in a way a simple "you won" would not. Partial solutions will only raise the pedestal partway, encouraging you to try again. Also, each block seems to have its own personality. They sleep at the beginning of the puzzle, but as you bounce balls off of them, their faces pop and contort delightfully. Enigmatic splash pages introduce each set of puzzles and the new blocks that will join the line-up.
It's not revolutionary, but ELOH is a good puzzle game that develops its central ideas well and puts them in a very attractive package.