It doesn't take an international man of mystery to deduce why Elevator Action was so popular nearly three decades ago. The original arcade machine mixed the excitement of a James Bond movie with the side-scrolling level designs of Mappy. But this wasn't some run-and-gun action game; it required players to sneak their way through interior mazes, using doors and elevators to avoid bad guys and collect hidden documents.
While it may not be the biggest name these days, Elevator Action has had a solid run over the last thirty years. Not only did Taito develop a 16-bit sequel in 1994, but they also managed to release versions on the Game Boy Advance, Saturn, PlayStation 2, Wii and countless other systems. Taito even managed to get a reboot into the arcades in 2010. Their newest version, Elevator Action Deluxe, may not be everybody's cup of tea, but it proves that this series deserves to be talked about all these years later.
Elevator Action Deluxe stays comfortably close to the original game. You play a spy on the hunt for classified documents. The object of each level is to search through several floors of a building (skyscraper, hotel, factory, etc.) for hidden documents. Once you've pocketed these important papers, you need to rush to the exit and move on to the next stage. But beware, there are guards everywhere.
While the concept is simple enough, the combination of labyrinthine mazes and increasingly aggressive bad guys makes this a tough process. Add to that a timer that is constantly ticking and you have the makings of a stressful day. Players can duck behind doors to hide from enemies, as well as use the elevators to move from floor to floor. The goal here is to learn how each of the different enemies acts and use the environment to your advantage.
Thankfully our hero has enough firepower to get out of sticky situations. He starts with a standard handgun with slow moving bullets, but soon enough he will uncover machine guns, rockets, lasers and more. While it may seem easier to run through the stages shooting everybody in sight, you'll quickly discover that this only brings more (and tougher) guars. You're better off sneaking through the stage avoiding being seen. Just don't take too long, you only have a few minutes to find the documents and flee.
The game does a good job of presenting new items, objectives and enemies over the course of fifty stages. The level designs start out relatively simple, but before long you'll need to avoid traps and solve platforming puzzles. The enemies also change over the course of the game, adding new challenges that keep the feel fresh. Considering how simple the gameplay is, I'm impressed with how much the developers were able to do with the brand new campaign mode.
The game's presentation is fine, though I'm not the biggest fan of the art style. I wish they would have gone for something more comic book-inspired. As it is, Elevator Action Deluxe looks like a lot of modern games that feature polygonal graphics on a 2D plane. The explosions look good and I was impressed with the boss battles, but little else stands out about the game's visuals. They get the job done and little more.
On top of the single-player campaign, Elevator Action Deluxe features a couple of multiplayer modes. Up to four players can play through the 50 story missions. Those four players can also go head to head in the competitive mode. Sadly neither of these modes is playable over the internet, a disappointing oversight that makes little sense in this day and age. Ultimately I didn't have as much fun with the multiplayer mode, especially when playing with Elevator Action virgins.
I was happy to see that this PSN title also featured a port of the arcade original. The graphics are outdated and the sound effects are a mess, but it's great to see the origins of this long-running series. Playing the 1983 arcade game helps highlight all of the improvements that were made in this downloadable reboot.
When it comes to this new sub-genre of retro remakes, Elevator Action Deluxe is no Pac-Man Championship Edition. Don't expect neon lines and flashy graphics. This is a simple action/maze game. The fifty levels will keep you going for a while, even if the core gameplay gets a bit repetitive over time. It would have been nice to see a few more game modes added to the mix, but I never felt like there wasn't enough content. Much like the arcade original, Elevator Action Deluxe is easy to recommend.