SEATTLE – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a great game, but it’s a fairly major departure from a traditional Zelda title. Yono and the Celestial Elephants will soon fill the pachyderm-shaped hole in your heart. Imagine The Legend of Zelda, but starring an adorable, helpful elephant, and you should get a pretty clear picture of the game.
I went hands-on with Yono and the Celestial Elephants at PAX West 2017, and listened eagerly as one of the developers described it as “The Legend of Zelda, but with an elephant.” He wasn’t kidding. I took control of Yono, a small, eager elephant who finds himself in an isometric, cartoonish town full of townspeople with problems that could only be solved by the judicious application of an elephant’s trunk.
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From watering flowers to waking up sleeping villagers, it seemed that every problem in Yono’s first stage could be solved with sucking up some water and dousing something or other with it. This let the game’s attractive animation and gentle sense of humor shine through. The rich, almost oversaturated color palette helped me feel right at home in the fantasy world – and made it feel all the more jarring when I made my way into the game’s first dungeon.
Gone were the cheerful greens and reds of the village, replaced with the somber blues and grays of stone wall. Skeletal warriors leered at me around every corner, and my only ally was a cadaverous ferryman, who needed me to find his lantern. Until then, Yono had only a meager light source surrounding his immediate area. I won’t say that seeing enemies emerge from the gloom was scary, exactly – Yono is too sweet to be scary – but it was unnerving.
The dungeon was where Yono shone (metaphorically, at least). By pushing blocks, breaking crates, weighing down switches, traversing moving platforms, dousing flames and defeating enemies, I was able to find keys, unlock doors, and penetrate deeper into the labyrinth. Any Legend of Zelda player should find the formula familiar, and Yono pulls it off almost as well as Link himself.
There’s not too much else to say about the game at the moment. Its earnest tone and gorgeous graphics make it worth checking out, but its rock-solid gameplay is more than enough reason to stick around. The game will debut this October for both the PC and the Nintendo Switch.