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Review: Tembo: The Badass Elephant

Game Freak, the Pokémon game creators tried something new with Tembo by creating an action packed platform game in a cartoony world. Tembo feels fresh and new and it might concern Sonic. Looks like we got a new fast-paced 2D platformer!

Meet Tembo

Tembo is the new star of this game and he’s an elephant. That’s right. Game Freak went from Pokémon to a brutal badass commando Elephant. If Rambo would die and return as an elephant it would be Tembo. He’s big and heavy but surprisingly fast for his size. Tembo is the last hope for the military that lost Shell City to the hands of the Phantom Force army. This army quickly outnumbered local forces thanks to their machines and soldiers. Tembo is humanity’s last resort and was called forward to save Shell City. It isn’t a mind-blowing or innovating plot but the gorgeous comic introduction sure makes up for this flaw. The entire game looks like an interactive comic, including classic phrases as ‘Bada Bada’ popping up while playing.

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Learn the basics 

After this short introduction of Tembo, you’ll be dropped in the training or tutorial world. In here you’ll learn the moves of the elephant. He can jump, float in the air like Yoshi, dash and shoot water. These are the basic moves but it gets a little more complex learning more difficult moves as slides, butt stomps, uppercuts and a bouncing cannonball. Tembo is big and heavy but thanks to these moves, he’ll run trough the levels as fast as Sonic. We won’t go as far as saying that Tembo could easily replace Sonic as Sega’s mascot but we’re sure that this is a game very suitable for the Sega label.

 

Watch out Sonic, here’s Tembo!

 

By looking at the moves, it might look like Tembo offers a rather classic platform experience but this isn’t true. The big difference is that everything is based on destruction. By destroying the right object you can keep up your momentum just until you reach the finish, or you can just have fun with the crazy physics and fun of destroying everything.

Find and destroy

So this brings us to the core of the game, the levels. Tembo features a total of seventeen levels divided in zones (look at that, Sonic). Depending on your skills it will take you a couple of hours to complete all levels. But are they any fun to begin with? Short answer, they sure are! Each level has its own theme and atmosphere but will always force you to do two important tasks. The first one is the save all civilians that are trapped by the Phantom Force and the second one is to defeat as many soldiers as possible. The game even shows a counter of how many soldiers you’ve killed and how many are remaining in the level. Finding and defeating them all will gain you access to new levels

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Finding civilians unlocks other bonuses. The most fun part about it all is that almost everything you see is destructible. This destruction of the environment is by far one of the most fun elements of the game. Tembo is able to dash, jump or hover his way trough various walls and flours. By dashing and destroying, you can gain speed and momentum. The game is at its best during the moments you can keep up this momentum but that’s a hard task to complete.

Don’t worry however; the game is a lot of fun if you aren’t that skilled in keeping up the speed and your momentum. Thanks to the great looks, it’s definitely a game that you can play for a long time. The graphics look clean and although they aren’t that special, they really pop-out thanks to the great style. Some levels are also filled with great extras as giant bowling balls to take care of your environment and its enemies. As said before, new gamers will find a lot of fun in these moments while more experienced gamers will go for building up their momentum.

Take down the enemies 

Aside of destruction, the main selling point is defeating enemies. The game sells as an action game based on this but we would rather say it’s a platform game. The reason for this is that defeating enemies never is difficult. In regular levels, you just run them over without any problems and the boss levels also lack challenge. The boss battles are brilliantly designed and a lot of fun to complete but they never are that difficult. This isn’t a Metal Slug you’re playing; it’s a fun action/platform game with fun but easy enemies to take down.

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So why are they so important? Well, the game houses a ‘gate mechanic’ that means you can’t access new levels before defeating the right amount of enemies. This isn’t a problem during the first levels since you’ll always find enough enemies to take down. It starts to gets a problem in the later levels however. In the later levels the action and speed gets higher, making it more difficult to spot the enemies. It will happen more frequently that you’ll need to revisit levels in order to find more enemies so that you can advance in the main game.

Forced replaying of levels

This forced replaying of levels can get a bit frustrating and should have been optional if you ask us. Not everybody will enjoy revisiting old levels to find more enemies. To make it even harder, the game will reset once you restart so if you do the exact same thing, you won’t find more enemies. We most say we do love most levels and didn’t mind getting back at them but this gate mechanic is a little old school and should have been let out. Players who want to advance in the story before replaying some levels are now forced to do what the game want them to do. A little more freedom in this would have been great.

Conclusion

All in all we can say that Tembo: the Badass Elephant isn’t a bad game at all. Game Freak tried something new and it worked. The forced replaying of the levels is the only flaw we could spot in an otherwise brilliant game. The moves of Tembo combined with his speed allow us to control one of the most fun characters since years. The destruction of objects is just great and the way everything looks like a comic fits the entire game perfectly. It isn’t as big as Pokémon but we hope that Game Freak will show us more Tembo in the future. If Tembo was a Pokémon, he would be my favorite for sure!

8/10

Got interested in games since I could read. Started with Nintendo but evolved into an all-round gamer. I love all kind of games; triple A games to Indie. If the vibe is right, I'll enjoy playing it.