Review – Elevator Action Returns

Elevator Action Returns Header

How is Elevator Action Returns not talked about more? Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the absolute most obscure arcade game that I’ve covered. It even recently got an enhanced port (of the Sega Saturn version) called Elevator Action Returns S-Tribute, but it’s so much better than its niche suggests.

I already love Elevator Action, the 1983 game that is supposed to be some sort of spy thriller but looks more like an intern trying to rush photocopies down to the basement at any cost. It’s a lot better than any game about waiting for an elevator and sliding into broom closets should be. Elevator Action Returns asks the question, “What if you take Elevator Action and… You know what, screw it. Check this shit out.”

Elevator Action Returns in a construction site.
Elevators AND action? In this economy?

POINT OF INGRESS

Elevator Action Returns starts off looking like an updated version of the original. You start off by descending a tall building using a series of inefficient elevator shafts. Your job is to enter red doors to “treat” bombs on the way to the exfiltration point.

Then, like halfway down the building, a guy in a helicopter blows it up.

The second level starts with one of the best infiltrations I’ve ever seen. The protagonists just crash their helicopter through the window and begin the mission. A passenger plane gets blown up. There are dudes in jetpacks. Most of it is just a massive blur of slow elevators and people stepping out of the washroom and straight into a gunfight or an active fire.

It takes quite a bit from the original Elevator Action. You mostly just blast left and right, press up and down to control elevators, and you can also shoot out lights. It’s practically unrecognizable beyond that. The aesthetic of most-out-of-place-protagonist fighting stereotypical Spy vs. Spy guys is replaced with ‘90s run-and-gun. Also, everything explodes all the time. Also, your chosen character is just immune to fire and explosions. Don’t question it.

Elevator Action Returns burning grenades.
Your character can stand the heat and is therefore allowed to be in the kitchen.

FIREPROOF PANTS

I mean it, there are explosive barrels everywhere. Sometimes, floor just explodes for no reason. Your protagonist doesn’t care. Dozens of enemies could be roasting on the open flames, and you can just stroll through. It’s amazing.

There are three characters to choose from with names like Kart Bradfield, Edie Burret, and Jad the Taff. What’s a Taff? Um… Hm… A Welshman, apparently?

Each one of them has their own strengths and weaknesses, but I tend to jive with Edie since I, too, have hair down to my belly button and I’m also wearing a red tank top right at this moment. Her grenades also set fires that burn any bad guys who step into it. They don’t seem to realize it will hurt them. It’s actually somewhat overpowered, as you can start fires on either side of her, and dudes will just walk into them.

I wish I was able to try out the two-player co-op mode. I’ll maybe need to pressure the next person who enters my apartment into playing with me.

Elevator Action Returns Mission 2 opening.
No time to land, just jam it in there.

ARCADE OWNERS HATE THIS ONE TRICK

Weirdly, I found Elevator Action Returns to be pretty easy on its default difficulty. This is not only on Elevator Action Returns S-Tribute (which is a very accurate port), but also on the arcade version I played via my Taito Egret II Mini. When I played the Egret II Mini version, one of the thoughts I had was that arcade owners must have hated it for how much playtime it gives per credit.

The S-Tribute version gives you a small handful of credits to reach the end. You can change the number of lives for each credit, but by default, you have one extra life. There’s also a rewind option that I never used. Despite this, on the default setting, I was still able to reach the end credits on my second attempt.

I generally find that if I find a game difficult, that doesn’t mean it will be for everyone. However, if I find it easy, it’s probably actually easy.

Part of this is because, unlike a lot of run-and-gun shooters, you have a health bar. This is somewhat necessary because the busy graphics, piles of enemies, and constant exploding can easily conceal shots. Enemies fire high and low, and since it uses a rather stiff control scheme, it can be difficult to know when to jump or duck. The trade-off is that it’s easy to survive a situation and heal yourself over time.

Elevator Action Returns waiting for elevator.
I hope nobody else gets on. I hate making conversation.

GOING DOWN

There also isn’t a whole lot of variation to the game. There aren’t really any boss bosses. That’s a little strange. There’s one dude who probably qualifies, but I almost feel like Elevator Action Returns needs to have something more bombastic. Like fighting someone in an adjacent elevator as you both plunge down an impossibly tall building.

There is some variation in enemies, at least, but one of them is a dog, which is never fun. Although, everyone else dies while dogs just kind of sit down like you just told them they’re bad.

Still, it’s a short game at six levels. Insubstantial, I suppose. It never really slows down and probably stretches the concept out to its maximum, but it’s still not much. It’s not as razor-sharp as Metal Slug or as re-playable as, well, Elevator Action.

However, for something that bills itself as a sequel to Elevator Action, it’s very surprising. All its flash and energy grab your attention like any good arcade game should, and its attention to detail makes the whole thing worth seeing. At the end of the game, you’ll probably walk away impressed and with enough money still in your pockets for a slice of pizza.

7/10

This review was conducted on a Nintendo Switch using a digital version of the S-Tribute port. It was also played on a Taito Egret II Mini. It was paid for by the author.

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About Zoey Handley 243 Articles
Zoey made up for her mundane childhood by playing video games. Now she won't shut up about them. Her eclectic tastes have led them across a vast assortment of consoles and both the best and worst games they have to offer. A lover of discovery, she can often be found scouring through retro and indie games. She currently works as a Staff Writer at Destructoid.

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