The first moments you spend with 4 Elements HD may have you thinking that the game is a little on the easy side, maybe even a bit simplistic. After you learn the basics of the tutorial and plow through some intro levels, you may even start to believe that you are really good at the game. Both of these assumptions are false.
The game's easy-to-follow tutorial starts out innocent enough. You're greeted by a happy-go-lucky fairy that guides you through the game mechanics, all while being treated to a charming presentation and a lovely soundtrack. But by the end of the first world, 4 Elements HD decides you've had enough quiet time and decides to rev up in difficulty, fast.
Your main opponent in the game will be the timer, represented by an ever-depleting green bar on the right side of the screen. Your goal is to guide elemental energy through the stage by destroying tiles, which break when you make a match of three or more on them. The matched blocks will disappear, with new ones falling into place.
Time is mercifully abundant at first, giving you ample opportunity to try your hand at creating big chains of matches. Bountiful chains are rarely sitting there for the taking however, so you'll have to manipulate the board by strategically clearing smaller block combos. The more blocks you match at once, the higher your score and bigger the explosion. This tactic takes some getting used to, but once you have a knack for it it adds a lot of depth to the gameplay.
A variety of power ups also help to keep things fresh, as do the unique blockades and obstacles the game implements. Power ups allow you to swap around colors, eliminate single tiles, set off bombs and re-shuffle the board. This comes in very handy as the game soon introduces combo-blocking rocks, inhibiting ice and arrow turrets that fire in a variety of directions. The turrets must be triggered by elemental energy, and aside from your bombs, are the easiest way to destroy the pesky ice and rocks barring your path. Also, some blocks can only be destroyed by the arrows, setting up a puzzle-within-a-puzzle of sorts that requires you to plan out a path while matching colors.
Presentation is top notch, with an animated overworld serving as your stage select screen, lush sound and a detailed fantasy setting. The graphics are a well done, with each of the four elemental energies you'll be guiding having their own dedicated worlds. These are based off of fire, earth, air and water, and even your Move controller will glow different colors depending on what world you visit.
Another well implemented feature is the online leaderboards. Rather than having to exit your game and view them from the main menu (you can do that too), each stage you select lists the top player and score, as well as your top score and ranking on that stage.
As far as control, the game replaces the original's mouse controls with an on-screen reticule controlled by aiming the Move controller, and while this approach does the job fine, it does feel a bit workmanlike. Selecting levels to replay 50 stages back is especially tiresome, as you'll be gesturing all over the place before arriving at the stage icon. After a few hours of extended play, your aiming may begin to waver, so just make sure you adjust the sensitivity to your liking in the options. A traditional PS3 controller can be used as well, but we recommend the quick response of the Move over the analogue stick for this one.
Like Peggle, Chuzzle and Bejeweled before it, 4 Elements excels at taking a simple, base concept and ramping it up to the Nth degree. What's left is a deep, challenging puzzle game with loads of content and some seriously addictive gameplay. If you're looking for a solid puzzle title with Move support, 4 Elements HD may be your perfect match.