Review: The Adventures of Elena Temple (Switch)

Gamers often look at nostalgia in the most straightforward way – reliving those moments from long ago. However, what we forget is the ambiance surrounding those experiences. The sights, the sounds and, yes, maybe even the smells. I get wistful about it rather frequently, often able to pinpoint moments in time based on the games I was playing during them. I wonder whether this is some kind of weird savantism or whether I’m just really, really odd.

The Adventures of Elena Temple is not an old game. If you think too hard about it, it’s not really a new game, either. Well, not in the respect that it pushes any kind of boundaries or innovates in a technological way. Rather, it’s a game that is meant to elicit a feeling of playing something that could have been made during gaming’s Wild West years. The fact that it’s made by a sole developer (Catalin Marcu, aka GrimTalin) only adds to the impression that the game could have come from the bedroom-coder days of the 1980s.

Elena Temple plays like a semi-open-world platformer in which you take our little heroine and plumb the depths of a tomb in search of riches. She lives in an intentionally monochromatic world, where each new room plays out like its own little puzzle in an interconnected whole. There are coins just out of reach, tantalizing treasures hidden away and enemies befitting of a hidden temple. There are moving and disappearing platforms, walkways covered in vicious animals, and spikes galore. It feels familiar because it’s meant to. It’s a game built in 2018 that’s meant to feel like a game from 1982. It’s definitely a comfort food experience that, while not mind-blowing in any respect, is a joy to play. It’s like a lost gem from a forgotten time.

What really drills the experience home is how The Adventures of Elena Temple is presented. You have the option of playing it in seven different ways, from mock-ups of an Apple II (fittingly called the Maple, replete with multicolored leaf logo) to a green-screen Game Boy (well, Some Toy). The game itself is always the same, and changing the template doesn’t erase your progress in any way, so you’re able to experiment with different settings. Furthermore, the backgrounds of these borders are blurred living areas or bedrooms, which create memories of playing the game in a specific location that you’ve never actually been to, but feel like you did by association. It’s a neat hook, and one that complements the solid game that the images surround.

For the price of a cup of coffee, you can experience (and re-experience) a game in which you’re playing something new that still feels familiar in interesting ways. The Adventures of Elena Temple is a simple but engaging game that’s been fun to play and replay because it’s a good reminder of what video games can be about. In this case, it’s the memory of them in a more sensory capacity than a superficially obvious one. If you’re looking for a new hit of nostalgia, The Adventures of Elena Temple can’t be beat.

The Adventures of Elena Temple is available for PC, Mac and Switch. We reviewed the Switch version.

Disclosure statement: Review code for The Adventures of Elena Temple was provided by GrimTalin. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.