Tembo: First Blood Part II.
This has to be one of the most shocking games I have come across in ages. So imagine a world where the guys who make Pokemon create a game about a commando elephant, complete with headband, hired by the military to take down an invading threat. Still with me? Now imagine that game is as awesome as it sounds. Tembo the Badass Elephant is not only a fantastic name, but the game lives up to most of its lofty first impressions.
Tembo is a side-scrolling action title that focuses on speed and finesse. Every level has a set of objectives such as saving citizens and defeating enemies. Tembo has an array of moves at his disposal – he can dash, shoot water out of his trunk, butt stomp, and cannonball at an angle. All of these moves are imperative to the game design, and levels are designed to be played multiple times. There are branching paths and hidden items, but the game is definitely built with speed running in mind.
Platforms: XB1, PS4, PC
Price I’d Pay: $14.99
What is beautiful about the game is that Game Freak has managed to make it work on two levels. The game can be played normally, at a steady pace, or it can be plowed through with superb skill. Every level is flawlessly designed to take advantage of Tembo’s move-set, which is a good thing because replaying levels is a must.
One of the things that hinders the game is the progression. Levels are locked based on how many enemies Tembo kills. The running tally is accumulated after each level, and added to the overall count. The problem is that with branching paths the numbers don’t always add up. This means repeating stages before being able to progress to the next area. Sure, this is fundamental game design, but when the design allows for both casual and skilled game play, it would be nice if the progression also followed that ideal.
Tembo comes packed with 17 levels, and the difficulty ramp is just right. This is the perfect game for a weekend session. It only takes a few hours to beat, but coming back for perfection is fun. Thanks to the spot-on controls and superb level design. It is also worth noting that it is chock full of charm. I usually don’t care about cut scenes or a forced narrative in a game of this nature, but they are so well presented and genuinely entertaining, plus who doesn’t love the idea of an elephant montage, complete with red headband?
The game also looks fantastic. I love the cartoon art style. It really fits the mood of the experience. The added visual cues to movement are also really fantastic. Everything about the presentation is great. From the music to the sound effects, everything is so live and colorful.
Tembo the Badass Elephant has an awesome name, and the game play to match. The only drawback is the archaic progression system. Those looking for a quick romp with hints of masochism for perfect runs should definitely check it out. The charm and pitch-perfect game play are more than worth the price of admission.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.