Review – ELEA: Paradigm Shift (Switch)
ELEA: Paradigm Shift caught my attention when looking for a new game to dive into during a slow season for new releases. I’m not normally the biggest fan of walking sims, but the story seemed compelling and the visuals looked beautiful. I took a chance and went for it. Now I’m regretting that decision.
The game opens up with our protagonist, Elea, waking up to her husband calling her. Right away I was in trouble because the screen was completely black. At first I figured it was just a part of the game and she was closing her eyes while still trying to wake up. After five minutes, I realized this wasn’t the case and restarted the game. Low and behold, the screen lit up with the bright and colorful room that I was suppose to be seeing the whole time. Not exactly the best start to say the least.
After talking for a bit, I stood up and immediately noticed how sluggish the walking felt. I wrote it off because Elea is far along in her pregnancy at this time. It was still annoying but understandable. Then I went around the room and tried interacting with various objects scattered all around. At this moment it hit me that the late stage pregnancy wasn’t the reason for moving so awkwardly; it’s simply an awful control scheme.
Throughout this entire game you’ll have to ram into things and try moving the camera in just the right way in order to briefly see the hand icon that means you can investigate something. The most frustrating part is realizing that about 95% of the objects you can interact with have absolutely no bearing on the story or do anything in particular. There’s so much time wasted trying to pick up an item in the first place, that discovering there was no reason to do so, is infuriating.
That’s not even the worst part. ELEA: Paradigm Shift is so full of bugs and glitches that sometimes once you do find an important object to interact with, you won’t be able to utilize it properly. For example, in the beginning there is a door to a closet that has been knocked off and you can have Elea pick it up and fix it. However, in my case once I picked up the door, it vanished from my inventory. It didn’t respawn in the room again either. I even tried restarting my game, only to have the door missing from everything like it never existed in the first place. Luckily it wasn’t a crucial task, but it’s still ridiculous.
At another point there is a coffee mug you have to take with you for an important story-related mission, but the cup wouldn’t pick up. I moved all over the room and looked at it from every angle, but the hand icon never showed. I restarted my game and thankfully it worked that time. Then further along in the story, I had to read something in a communication pad, but every time I did the game would freeze. Three restarts later, it worked. Unacceptable to say the least.
Along with being a walking sim, ELEA: Paradigm Shift boasts that it’s a puzzle game. It’s not. The Talos Principle, Pedestrian, 7th Sector, and The Turing Test are all puzzle games. This is a game with one legitimate puzzle very late into it, with the rest of the “trials” being nonsensical garbage. They’re like being stuck in someone’s idea of a bad acid trip where you have to either zoom in or out on random things for something to appear, move around until you find something that opens up, or just wait around until a cutscene starts. There’s rarely any rhyme or reason to these obstacles and getting through them doesn’t make you feel like a genius, only relieved that it’s finally over.
The same can be said for simply getting through this game at all. The walking speed is agonizingly slow. Through most of the game you’ll feel like you’re wading through molasses. While there are times you are technically able to run, it’s barely faster than walking and you can only do it for a couple seconds before becoming winded and having to stop. In addition to that, the button allowing you to do so only registers about half of the time. This lead to multiple deaths during a chase sequence and with the loading times also being on the long side, this just makes it even more aggravating.
I will say that ELEA: Paradigm Shift is a visually appealing game in a lot of areas. When sitting in certain chairs you can take a moment to revel in the beauty of the spacial view. Many of the rooms feature items with great details and they feel very much like something you’d expect to find in a technologically advanced space cruiser. The humans on board have far less convincing details, but you won’t have to stare at very many of them for too long. I will warn you though that there are several rooms and some of the more psychedelic “puzzle” sections that can be almost seizure inducing with their light changing intensity. I can certainly see this causing issues for certain people who are more light and motion sensitive. This game also suffers from radical framerate drops for no apparent reason.
The sound design is all over the place. The actress who voices Elea does a commendable job, but the same can’t be said for the rest of the actors. The performances range from woodenly bland to ridiculously over the top. Aside from Elea and Kazumi (the ship’s AI), everyone sounds like they’re speaking through an old radio. The soundtrack is decent, but largely forgettable and the background sound effects cut in and out constantly, which can lead to a very disorienting experience.
I’m disappointed that ELEA: Paradigm Shift didn’t turn out to be as interesting as its trailer made it seem. It’s also very short since it’s apparently an episodic game. It’s about a two hour game that can take about three to four hours depending on how much you explore and how many times you have to restart due to bugs and glitches. Although, if they fixed the bugs, took out the unnecessary stuff, made interacting with things easier, and increased the movement speed, this would easily be about a forty-five minute game. The game ends right as the story seems to finally be starting, but with all the hardships of having to just get through this first episode, I think I’ll leave this tale unfinished.
The visuals are certainly the high point in the game. However, it suffers from freezing, glitching (and not at the intended spots), as well as drastic framerate drops.
You walk at a horrendously slow pace and during the rare times you’ll be able to run, the button allowing you to do so will only register about half the time. You’ll have to move back and forth a lot just to be able to interact with objects.
The voice actress playing Elea does a fine job, but the rest of the cast is mediocre at best. Everyone aside from Elea and Kazumi sound like they’re far away. The soundtrack is decent, but the background sounds cut in and out.
The controls are terrible and there’s often times no clear idea of exactly what to do or where to go. Many of the “puzzles” are just a matter of waiting for something to happen or zooming in and out on objects until you can interact with them. The story barely gets going before this episode ends.
Final Verdict: 2.5
ELEA: Paradigm Shift is available now on PC and Switch.
Reviewed on Switch.
A copy of ELEA: Paradigm Shift was provided by the publisher.