Elf: The Movie - Maybe Christmas was a Mistake...
Y’know, you’d be surprised how few Christmas games exist on the GBA. Obviously, as my final review of the year, I wanted to do a Christmas-themed GBA game, and my first thought was there’d absolutely be a Grinch game - for better or worse (for worse, probably, considering the PS1 game). But lo and behold, whilst there is one for the GBC, nothing for the GBA. And, based on my search, there really isn’t that many, and of those slim pickings, well… Yeah, the next few Christmases aren’t gonna be great, are they? Anyway, I picked my poison, and went with the path of least resistance and decided to tackle the only title I had any previous knowledge about - Elf: The Movie (The Video Game (I hate myself)).
Recently, I’ve seen a lot of love for the classic 2003 Christmas film Elf, starring Will Ferral. Now, it has been nearly twenty years since I’ve seen this film, having seen it with my entire school at the end of Grade 1, but I never really liked it. It’s just one of second-hand embarrassment movies where I’m just embarrassed for how crazy Will Ferral’s acting is about the idea of people thinking Santa isn’t real when he knows better. I dunno, it’s been twenty years, but I ain’t rewatching that crap. Unless you like it. Then it’s not crap. But only while you’re reading this, then it goes back to being crap. Speaking of crap, I actually played this game, and man, no matter how I remember the movie, 100% it’s better than this piece of shovelware.
Rather than having a unified story or gameplay design, Elf kind of falls between everyone’s favorite kind of games - a generic, usually side-scrolling platformer, and the good ‘ol accursed minigame collection. One level you’ll be doing the most bottom-of-the-barrel basic platforming, the next you’ll be fighting a snow war with elves, and then a stupidly easy and slow delivery simulator. And whilst the game will occasionally show screenshots from Elf itself (in arguably the most pixelated images I’ve ever seen outside of ARK’s Switch port) between levels, there is no narrative actually linking these levels - if you haven’t seen Elf (and god help you if you haven’t), you’re not gonna have any idea what the hell is actually going on. The platforming, whilst not making up the majority of the game, applying to around four or five of the game’s levels, is the most consistent gameplay style present within it. These platform sections, whilst never to be described as good, is perfectly average, in the sense that it does nothing interesting, but isn’t inherently broken like some of the later minigames. You’re just running and jumping, without any extraneous abilities, and at most you’ll be collecting items, like candy or gears or whatever the hell our Elf boy needs to get. Oh yeah, I don’t actually remember what the main character of Elf’s actual name was, so I’m just going to be calling him Elf or whatever from now on. Easily the worst thing is the fact that you can very, very easily miss the mandatory items you’re looking for, requiring you to potentially backtrack the entire level to actually progress. It’s maddening I say, maddening!
Now, whilst the platforming is boring, yet unoffensive, the minigame focussed levels are genuinely, incredibly terrible. Where do I even start with these? Do I start with the sidescrolling, Christmas light collecting gauntlet? Whilst it seems simple, having to manage a stamina meter so you can dash through traffic without becoming a read smear on a 4WD, but for some reason, your health will constantly be dropping for no reason, forcing you to recharge them in little revolving doors that take waaay too long to actually finish. How about the elevator delivery level? It’s the most simple memory game in the world and I felt my brain losing gray matter from how long it went on for. The pipe game is the only one I didn’t hate - all you’re doing is connecting pipes so the right color presents reach the correct pipe, but it’s just so basic and average I struggle to actually remember it that much. The fact that *that* the bar is that low is shameful. Then there’s the snowball fight.
The goddamn snowball fight.
This is genuinely one of the worst minigames I’ve ever had the displeasure of playing in my more than two decades of playing video games. Its premise is simple - throw snowballs at elves, avoid Santa, avoid getting hit. Easy, right? All you gotta do is get enough points equal to hitting around 30ish elves, and you’re done. WRONG. It’s easy to avoid hitting Santa or getting hit by snowballs, but the Elves. The fucking Elves. Whilst you have to hit 30 of them, you are completely subservient to the fact that the amount of Elves actually popping seems to be completely random. You have three minutes, and there were times that I felt ten to fifteen seconds would pass without a single elf appearing, but Santa sticks his fat head up three times. It took me five tries to beat this level, and all four of those the only reason I lost was because enough elves didn’t actually spawn. I almost cheered when I actually got through it - I can’t believe this made it through Q&A. Whilst the rest of this game is genuinely bland-to-bad, the fact that it’s basically down to RNG if you can actually pass this goddamn minigame is asinine. Trust me, I was getting reeeeal pissed off. At least the others were just boring - this literally wasted my time. And it’s not like this game has any real girth to it - I beat it in less than an hour, and a good chunk of it was probably repeating the more annoying mini games several times to actually get past the bloody things. I need a drink.
Visually it’s just perfectly fine - there isn’t a ton of detail in the sprite work, but it’s not outright bad, relatively speaking, it’s just another example of how this game just existed to be rushed out for a quick buck. It’s extremely rough around the edges at times, and the screencaps from the movie itself are so pixelated they’re almost indecipherable. The audio is much worse, however with only a scant few songs for variety and the audio quality being amongst the worst I’ve ever seen, somehow being uniquely terrible and generic at the same time. I don’t even really remember much of the soundtrack, besides its genuine lack of quality and awful bitrate - I genuinely had to look up a longplay of this to actually remember.
This game is just such a unique example of shovelware - I barely know anyone who actually saw Elf, especially back in 2003. What’s even more insane is the fact that this game didn’t even come out to coincide with its November 2003 release; this game came out nearly a year later, which is just immensely confusing. Why make this game, if not to release alongside it? Why, if you’re committed to releasing this game, not give it some actual time in the oven, give the game an actual identity, and not the pseudo-minigame collection that it is. I understand shovelware’s purpose… but this just doesn’t make a lick of sense. I once referred to a previous game I reviewed, Planet of the Apes, as being arguably the most pointless game I’ve ever played… but in retrospect, that mess of a game sounds like a perfectly sound idea when compared to Elf: The Movie (The Game). Man, I should’ve picked the original GameBoy or the Colour - at least that way I’d have a loooot less shovelware to deal with. Well, I dug my grave back in February - and I used a shovelware game to do it! Huh? Huh?!
Elf: The Movie (The Game) is unsurprisingly not worth your time. It’s embelic of everything wrong with shovelware, but this time with a festive twist to the formula. At its very best, it’s boring and inoffensive - at its worst, it’s frustrating, repetitive, and in some cases, flat out does not work. Even if, for some insane reason you’re an incredibly dedicated fan of Elf, don’t play this game. Hug your family. Spread some Christmas cheer. Play literally any other game. It’ll put you in a better mood, that’s for sure.
Thank you so much for reading my review of Elf: The Movie on the Game Boy Abyss. Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all who are reading this! I’m going to be taking the next two or three weeks off from The Game Boy Abyss, just so I can relax and not feel the pressure of feeling like I need to have a review out most weeks. Don’t worry, though! If all goes to plan, I’ll have a special post ready in the next week or so, so look forward to that! As always, you can find me over at Twitter @Lemmy7003, or you can email me at email@example.com if you have any requests or questions for the next year of the Game Boy Abyss. Thanks again for reading, and have a great break.