As someone who not only cares deeply about the preservation of niche media but also someone who attributes a lot of their early gaming experiences to browser games, I was deeply moved by the announcement of Adobe ceasing support for the Flash Player a few years back. People are surely tired of hearing about it under articles such as this review, but it cannot be understated how much each effort of preserving these titles means to me.
The Elephant Collection is particularly special. At home, I did not have access to the internet until the age of 17, so most of my computer time before that was spent in libraries or at my family/friends’ places. I was not attracted to any of the hyperviolent titles because I always played in a social space, and mostly navigated the point-and-click and puzzle categories, trying to find something cool that I could show others. Games we could complete together, or, on occasion, compete in who could come up with the solution the fastest.
It was during those times that I found the little blue elephant. His games would showcase the very best of the Flash era, the ingenuity and forward-thinking design, the unabashed approach to contemporary online humor, minimalistic visuals, and meta aspects. From Achievement Unlocked to This is the Only Level, these games would form memories of me and my cousins, sitting together, racking our brains, laughing. I know I am not the only one who treated these Flash games as a social thing, and I hope the creators know just how much they brought into our lives.
The person commonly associated with this elephant is jmtb02, who mentions numerous times in this port that many others are to thank for testing and coming up with ideas. He credits and thanks the others here in a selection of heartfelt messages and notes that serve as rewards for completing challenges in individual titles. The Elephant Collection is not just a selection of old flash games, but also a retrospective look at their creation, and a treasure trove of trivia provided by their creator.
Upon launching the collection, the player will always be greeted with his very first title, Elephant Rave, which certainly warrants the photosensitivity warning positioned before it. Unfortunately at the moment of writing, the game lacks certain accessibility options, and I sincerely hope that at some point they will be added. At the very least an option to skip that particular segment would be helpful so that anyone could enjoy the rest, as not all of the titles include this level of intensity.
The elephant, forgetting his memories, falls into his house and has to reexperience all the titles from his past. These are the three Achievement Unlocked games, the three This Is The Only Level games, Elephant Quest, Obey! The Game, and Run Elephant Run. I was personally only familiar with the two series I mentioned previously but was excited to try the others.
And completing one after the other, I began to more and more appreciate the vision these games had. They were all about playing with player expectations, celebrating their success, and providing quick boosts of dopamine during their short, one-sitting play sessions. Sure, sometimes certain puzzles repeated themselves between different games or even installments of the same series, but back then, even though a game might have the number 2, 3, or 10 in the title, as long as it caught your eye, you would play it. Each game was someone’s first elephant game.
Here, they are all available from the start. After the rave minigame, that is. They all serve to tell the story of this series’ development, but can be completed in any order. Each asset and idea is then detailed after completing this collection’s unique challenges, celebrating these titles to their minute details. It is a very joyful and heartwarming experience, and even if anyone came to the collection seeking only one game, I recommend giving them all a shot for this reason.
I did not enjoy all of them. While I love the dopamine rush and ingenuity of Achievement Unlocked, as well as the many reinterpretations of This Is The Only Level, I will likely not be returning to the more arcadey Obey! The Game and the short, tough runner Run Elephant Run. I did appreciate the little RPG adventure of Elephant Quest a whole lot though. They all mean a lot to the creator, and I can appreciate them because of that.
And they were all preserved incredibly well, with all the good and the bad. Through some magic, the games lose frames the same way they did back then and contain all the little quirks I remembered. You will be jumpscared by the sudden increase in volume, and your eyes will be assaulted by many low-quality background images. It is a wonderful time capsule filled with nostalgia for anyone jumping back in and an informative experience for those seeing them for the first time, for better or worse.
But not everything could remain. Guide and site links, certain puzzle solutions that required running multiple instances of a game, etc. Some things were adapted to work on the Steam version, but it certainly is a bit of a shame. We have seen other games play with meta elements since then, so I would love to see something of the sort be implemented to allude to moments that would originally occur outside the game window.
Nevertheless, this should not be much of an issue if you have not played the originals. Having this collection on a platform I visit every day is a miracle to me, and one I am very thankful for. It works extremely well and I had a blast finding all of its secrets, remembering all the solutions and even the frustrations I felt back when I was a teenager, sitting in a group and trying so hard to be the one to win. Thank you to everyone who made this possible. And if you too feel a bit nostalgic for that era of online games, I cannot recommend The Elephant Collection enough.
Mateusz played The Elephant Collection on PC with a review code.