Have you ever wondered what a Game Freak game would be like if they hadn’t made Pokemon games year after year, and hadn’t been bosom buddies with Nintendo? Perhaps, Game Freak would have made games for Sega while they were still a strong contender in the console space. What would a game published by Sega and developed by Game Freak have been like? Probably a whole heck of a lot like Tembo the Badass Elephant.
Tembo is a side-scrolling platformer, available for Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC, that feels very much like a game Sega would have published during the Genesis era. The game is split into three main sections with four standard levels and a boss stage, along with two bonus levels and a final boss stage. The titular character, an elephant commando, is called upon to save Shell City from the evil forces of PHANTOM.
Through each level the player is tasked with using a small arsenal of maneuvers to dispatch enemies while saving ten captive civilians, some of which are hidden behind false walls and such. Boss stages consist of only battling the boss, which is generally simple once the patterns are discovered. This makes the gameplay straight-forward and accessible for many players, and the difficulty is more than manageable despite the sudden escalation in Tembo’s third section. The controls work well, but the animations get in the way of performing actions in quick succession in later levels which add to the frustration. Despite the spike in difficulty, most levels only take between three and ten minutes to complete with none taking longer than fifteen minutes. This setup, though akin to platformers of the Genesis era, would have been right at home on a handheld like the Playstation Vita. The bite-sized levels would have been great on-the-go, and I feel this was a missed opportunity, especially considering I only needed to spend a little more than three hours to complete the game.
Gameplay is more than serviceable, but the presentation is where this game shines. The aesthetic is that of a children's cartoon based upon manga, and it is gorgeous. Even the cutscenes between sections are beautiful motion comics that convey the story without any words or voice-overs. Character models are fun, and the boss designs are particularly enjoyable. Backgrounds are gorgeously filled with setting-appropriate objects in a way that makes you want to idle and just stare for a bit. Some assets are three-dimensional, but are splendidly rendered in a way that is consistent with the game’s aesthetic for a cohesive design. And speaking of cohesive, the music and sound effects fit Tembo like a glove. Sound effects are over-the-top in a lovingly cartoonish way, and some of Tembo’s actions are accompanied by hand-lettered comic-style onomatopoeia that animate appropriately. The music always conveys the right tone for the in-game situations. In short, Tembo’s overall presentation is impeccable.
Tembo the Badass Elephant is an accessible platformer that offers some challenge, although not much. The game is presented so well that I wish an anime would accompany it so that I could get more. There is some replayability, but not much unless you’re someone that wants to collect everything in each of the seventeen levels. That being said, Tembo the Badass Elephant receives the Milds Davis on the Game Awry Review Scale. Outside of presentation, Tembo is nothing special, but it is fun while it lasts. In no way do I regret my time spent with it.