Fast Familiar – National Elf Service [Hivemind Review]

National Elf Service is a digital, narrative-driven light puzzle game created by Fast Familiar in the UK.

A red christmasty interface with an illustrated image of many red stills.

Format

Style of Play: narrative-driven light puzzle game

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection

Recommended Team Size: 1-3

Play Time: about an hour, but no time limit

Price: £20.00

Booking: purchase and play at your leisure

Description

This game is played fully in a browser, with puzzles presented to you sequentially through audio and visual means. You enter the answer into the interface to trigger the next story cutscenes.

Someone is sabotaging Christmas!

Hivemind Review Scale

REA's hivemind review scale - 3 is recommended anytime, 2 recommended in quarantine, 1 is not recommended.

Read more about our Hivemind Review format.

Joel Smileypeacefun Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

Someone is trying to sabotage Christmas yet again by stealing people’s Christmas spirit. But we are here to help!

At its best, this had one of my favorite artwork styles of all the online games I’ve reviewed so far. The characters and their voice actors did a phenomenal job of keeping me invested in the story. The puzzles and a chat system were embedded in a nice-looking interface.

At its worst, the story-to-puzzle ratio was a bit off (lengthy story, not much puzzling). The puzzles themselves were okay, but far from mind-blowing. The gameplay was linear and some puzzles did not feel multiplayer-friendly, to the point where 4 players felt like too many people. The final puzzle included text that was unnecessarily hard to read.

The ending was so cheesy that I rolled my eyes a little. It’s this “villain completely changes his mind in a matter of one sentence” type of ending. But overall, it was cute nonetheless.

Theresa W’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

National Elf Service was a cute, story-driven, light puzzle game that had some great voice acting. I really wish the puzzles were a bit more substantial, as they were all quite easy and weren’t thematic. The game had some well-designed visuals that really added some joy to the experience. This game definitely wasn’t for me; it was very story-focused. I could see this game being enjoyed by families with younger kids. The puzzles had a decent answer-verification system in place, and some cool interactive parts. Viewing some of the puzzles proved to be difficult, as the interface made them small and zooming just made them blurry.

Tammy McLeod’s Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

This game focuses more on narrative more than puzzles. It has a cute art style with high-quality audio. There are plenty of fun cutscenes to advance the story. The puzzles are straightforward and are process puzzles, for the most part. They would be great for a wide age range of players to solve remotely.

Matthew Stein’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

National Elf Service is an intriguing take on a narrative puzzle experience that stands out for its inclusion of diverse characters. I cannot emphasize strongly enough how important it is to normalize this type of representation, and I was enthused to see how the well-informed portrayal of neurodivergent behavior and physical disabilities thoughtfully shaped the natural interactions amongst the characters, without feeling like a gimmick or something that needed to be explicitly called out within the gameplay.

The story is sweet, and it’s presented through beautiful full-color drawings. There was an apparent awareness of accessibility – all the audio narration was captioned – but unfortunately this didn’t carry throughout the entire game. The interface was effective in structure, but clunky in non-responsive implementation, in particular for images which often displayed too small and weren’t easily resizable without distorting the rest of the UI. One particular puzzle featured a large amount of handwritten text that was very difficult to read and seemingly didn’t have a transcription or alt text. Many of the puzzles were trivially easy, while a few required a rather lengthy process, comparatively. I’m not quite sure who the intended audience is for this game. The story and overall puzzle style perhaps seemed targeted at preteens with some adult assistance, and puzzle enthusiasts may get frustrated with the slow-ish story pacing and fairly light puzzling.

Overall, I really appreciate the intention and creative energies that went into this game.

Disclosure: Fast Familiar provided the Hivemind reviewers with a complimentary play.

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