Review: Elevator Action Deluxe

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Remakes of classic arcade and older console games are nothing new.  A few years back Bionic Commando Rearmed brought focus back to the idea of taking a fun game mechanic, updating the graphics for today’s HD systems, adding some minor gameplay tweaks and hoping that either the nostalgia bug takes grip or the minor improvements help a game take off in ways that might not have been anticipated.  After Rearmed came out remakes, or updates if you prefer, of other titles such as Pac-Man, Galaga, Space Invaders, Frogger, Rocket Knight and Spelunker (just to name a few) have received the polish and shine so many great older games should get.

Last week, Square Enix released an update to the Taito classic Elevator Action.  To many newer gamers the title would suggest a fairly drab game.  Who would want to ride in elevators as a game?  In the original game, players would sneak into buildings and ride elevators and escalators up and down to find red doors which held secret documents.  Once the documents were secured the player had to continue to make their way down to the bottom of the building where a red sports car awaited for a speedy getaway.

Square’s latest version, Elevator Action Deluxe, takes the basic concept and for the better adds some additional mechanics.  Red doors contain secret documents, but now in this version blue doors can also be entered.  Sometimes the doors contain weapon power ups in the form of a machine gun or cherry bomb or even an RPG.  Additionally, the doors themselves can be used as weapons.  Obviously sneaking through a building to steal documents is going to rouse the suspicion of guards posted throughout.  Sneaking into a blue door and waiting for one of the guards to walk by is an almost cathartic feeling.  There is nothing quite like slamming the door open on a guard and watching your character nonchalantly exit as the guard slides down into a pile of broken limbs.

Besides using weapons and doors to take out guards, lights hang from the ceiling which can be shot out.  Shooting out the lights allows for two things.  First, you may shoot a light and have it fall on top of a guard.  Second, once a light is shot out the guards don’t see you even if you walk right up to them.

So far I’ve mentioned red doors, blue doors, weapons and light fixtures, but the game is called Elevator Action Deluxe, so what about the elevators? Obviously they play a key function to the game.  In the previous incarnations of the game you started at the top and worked through 30 or more floors to get to the red sports car.  In the new version each building that you infiltrate is broken down into five sections.   Starting a level begins with the same iconic rope and grappling hook lashed out to the top of the building with your character shimmying down the rope.  Floors inside the building are basically mazes that have elevators or escalators as a means of getting around.  Once inside an elevator you can control whether it goes up or down and you can even try to tease guards to walk underneath the elevator for a satisfying crunch.  Escalators also provide access to different floors and sometimes skip two or three floors altogether, making you loop back around to navigate to a red door for the secret document.

As you progress through each section of the building there are meta game challenges to consider as well.  Completing a section earns you a bronze star, earn enough money by taking out guards or completing the section quickly and you can earn a silver star.  Gold stars can be earned by proving you are the absolute cream of the crop.  Earning a gold star requires either progressing through an entire section without alerting guards, or perhaps not taking any damage, or finish a stage under a specific time.

Time limits to complete each section vary on the size of the section of building.  There are no true death penalties either, which is a nice change of pace.  However, if you want to earn the silver stars or even gold stars, you should avoid death because each time you die money is removed from your earnings at the end of section.  When you die, the clock keeps ticking and you may respawn back in a part of the maze that requires you to wait for an elevator to return to the floor you are on or wait for a blue door to respawn so that you can hide from a guard.

Timing is everything in this game.  Jumping, shooting, and opening doors all require deft precision in order to pass through a level unscathed.  The last section in each building adds a neat twist in that instead of finding secret documents there is a giant robot in the middle of the section.  Explosive charges are planted on various points of the robot and once the exit has been reached, the room and robot are detonated.

With each new building come new obstacles, enemies and even new ways to navigate the maze of levels.  Walls raise and lower, floors appear and disappear, and ropes can be climbed across to access different floors.  Enemies initially only shoot one bullet at a time, but as level progression increases so too do the various enemies’ weapons.  Machine guns, RPGs, lasers and even mischievous gremlin types plant bombs.  Robots become the defense of choice in later levels.  These robots charge at you with such a quick pace that unless you can hide in a blue door, you end up being pushed out of the building.  Other robots are more akin to rolling mines that explode if you don’t jump over them in time.

Even further into the game some enemies can’t be killed, but only slowed down.  A big bruiser thug chases after you with a speed that can be frustrating at times, but also cause hilarity at others, as you pull a lever and make the floor disappear from under him.

Elevator Action Deluxe takes a lot of cues from modern games by not punishing players to the point of “die two or three times and the game is over.”  Instead, a monetary score is tallied at the end of each section with money earned for time left on the clock, enemies killed and money taken away for each time you die.  Your score for each level can be compared with all other players on the global leader board.  For every level you complete a star is earned.  Gold stars unlock another meta aspect of the game in the form of Agent Dossiers.  The dossiers are actually screenshots of old Taito games in either arcade form or more modern console promo art.

Another fun thing that Elevator Action Deluxe pulls from modern games is the inclusion of multiplayer modes.  Up to four players locally can play through the story levels trying to work as a team or against each other.  This style of gameplay reminds me of the New Super Mario Brothers Wii game in that even though all players are trying to get to the end of the level, you can inadvertently (or intentionally if you’re a devious older brother intent on making your little sister cry) shoot the other players while trying to shoot the enemies.  At the end of each multiplayer round each player’s earnings are added up and whoever has the most money (minus the death penalty withdrawal) is titled the MVP.

The addictive hook with the multiplayer, though, is the competitive side.  Again up to four local players can race around the level either trying to collect as many secret documents or thwart the other players.  Points are earned for kills and secret documents collected.  In the competitive side there are a few options where you can try collection from 8 red doors or 1 at a time as well as deathmatch.  One extra layer of fun is the option to play with AI enemies gunning against all players.

Elevator Action Deluxe can be challenging at times in the single player missions, as later buildings ramp up with all of the tricks and enemies from previous levels and at times are unflinching in their ability to chew you up and spit you out. What makes this game great, though, is the quick three to five minutes each level takes, the satisfying local mutliplayer and the retro original which comes included. For ten bucks, this game has a little of of everything for a gamer who likes a challenge and enjoys sitting on the couch and razzing their friends while launching an RPG at them.

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Pros:
+ Fun quick levels
+ Great local multiplayer
+ Original retro arcade version included

Cons:
– Difficulty ramps up to high degree in later levels

Game Info:
Platform: PS3 via PSN
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: 8/30/2011
Genre: Arcade / Action
ESRB Rating: Teen
Players: 1-4 (local only)
Source: Review code provided by publisher

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About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.