Tembo the Badass Elephant comes from Game Freak and Sega. It’s quite the treat to get to play something new from the developers of Pokemon. The premise is you play as Tembo, an elephant that works for the military and as an invading force called The Phantom takes over Shell City, you must stop them. Throughout the game, each level has 10 hostages that act as challenges for you to rescue. The secondary challenge of each level is to kill enough Phantom forces, a score will be present throughout the level to show progression. You will also collect peanuts and after 300, you will get a jar of peanut butter that will act as your lives.
The gameplay is interesting as it’s clearly been inspired by side scrollers of the past. Sonic the Hedgehog, Crash Bandicoot, Metal Slug, Donkey Kong Country and Yoshi’s island. This is especially evident in how Tembo controls. He has a plethora of moves and abilities. Tembo can dash forward that destroys anything in his way, a down smash, a wrecking ball sort of thing, an uppercut attack, a floaty jump similar to Yoshi.
He can also use his trunk to spray water where ever he needs to. I have to admit, I’m a big fan of simplicity and this is a bit too complex for what I feel would have for made a better game. It isn’t inherently a bad thing but in the midst of battle, it’s easy to forget what attacks you have. The boss fights are relatively easy because they follow the boss trope of patterns and memorization. This is something that is very enjoyable as it hearkens back to a simpler time.
My favorite thing about this game are the visuals. The voiceless cut-scenes were all hand drawn and this moves into the gameplay as well. Everything is cell shaded and most of the things look hand drawn as well. Even though the game is a military based idea, it is very colorful. Different enemies will have a different color pallet based on their ability. This is actually vital to how you decide to attack a scenario. With the games short length, the amount of different enemies is really diverse. Giving the player a new obstacle with each level is great and I commend them for the massive variety. The boss designs were also a lot of fun, even though only 4 exist.
There are a lot of issues with this game though. First would be the level design, this is something that is very important to me in side scrollers. There are a lot of very fun and satisfying moments like when you destroy a ton of things, or roll a giant bowling ball over everything. What isn’t fun is taking leaps of faith or it not being clear as to where the branching path is to find that next hostage. Being punished for simply moving forward is not a great mechanic. I also have a great distaste for games that force the player to replay levels to unlock further levels. You must garner enough points in the first 3 levels of each section to unlock the 4th level, I sincerely can't stand this.
The games difficulty ramps up so fast that I couldn’t keep up, I almost quit this game in the final level. Having a ton of enemies on screen that have no readable pattern makes for a very difficult time. There is a cap on lives, this confounds me, if I collect 300 peanuts, it needs to go past 7 lives. This is something that is a major over sight. I didn’t go too much into it above but the controls are so damn wonky at times. This all might be that I tap a button too many times and it’s all my fault, it might be that I played this on the Xbox One and the controller is too sensitive but I died far too many times from accidents.
Overall this game is fun in most sections. Most levels are fun and enjoyable to replay and find those branching paths to the other hostages. This maybe hyperbole but the enemies make this game frustrating at times. I would love to see Game Freak make a different game, not sequel to Tembo but an entirely new game and see where they could improve on ideas used in this game. Tone down the abilities and improve level design. Give players more choice or at the very least the illusion of choice. This game is good, not great and not quite worth $15 bucks but still fun enough to not feel like a waste of money. I give Tembo the Badass Elephant a 7 outta 10.
What did you think of Tembo the Badass Elephant? What are some of your favorite side scrollers?
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