Tembo the Badass Elephant was perhaps the game that I was most looking forward to this year. Published by Sega and developed by Game Freak, the developers behind the Pokemon series, I truly believed anything they touched would be golden. Trailers showed high promise with gorgeous artwork and a delightful action platformer style, and with a $15 price point I really thought that Sega and Game Freak had truly nailed it.
Tembo the Badass Elephant pretty much has the whole plot wrapped up in the title, as Game Freak didn’t seem to think there was much point in adding a story to their latest indie-style game. The story can literally be boiled down to elephant commando has to go out and kill the bad guys. The most basic of action plots if there ever was one. There is no cut scenes but rather a dialogueless comic style fare every few levels, but they do little more to establish the story than I did two sentences ago.
So as you might have gathered, Tembo the Badass Elephant rests firmly on its gameplay. He has several attacks that are all based on two movements (read buttons): charging and jumping. A combination of any of these plus directions are all the actions you can do and can see you flying around the screen at wild speed at any moment. This is very fun in the earlier levels where you want to destroy everything in sight using a combination of powerful elephant rolls, but much less fun later on when you need to get involved in precision platforming. He also shoots water which will help you get past some enemies, but will only see an electric bolt to the trunk on others.
The screen is absolutely flooded with enemies to completely unfair levels. Think Mega Man 3 except instead of being able to time your jumps, slides, and shots perfectly, you fly around the screen with almost no control. Many platforms are destroyed at the slightest of Tembo’s heavy footed touches, so you often find yourself stuck in a section of a level or flying down into a dark abyss as you desperately search for Tembo on screen.
This would again all be ok if Tembo the Badass Elephant hadn’t committed what I believe to be 3 cardinal sins:
One hit kills. Asides from the accidental destroying of the platform below you and plunging to your death, certain levels have crushing pistons that require the most precise of timing. And yes, if you end up with just a toenail under one it’s back to the last checkpoint. Which would be ok except …
The Lives System. Lives systems were invented back in the day to artificially stretch out games as only really one hour of content could reasonably fit onto a cart. It worked then. Now it’s just ridiculous. WAKE UP SHEEPLE, it’s 2015, put the lives system away and think of an actually good game mechanic. And speaking of artificial stretching …
Collectibles are mandatory. Each level has 10 hostages and several 100 bad guys to kill. Every 4 levels you have to have killed a certain number of baddies in order to progress, which often means going back through old levels you’ve already done in order to up your numbers. This is dull and repetitive to the extreme.
There is a very obvious reason though that Game Freak decided to add this much suckage into their game. It’s short. Even if you generously give them the training level and all the boss levels that they separated into their own thing, you are still left with less than 20 levels, with each taking around 10 minutes to complete. Though with such a low price point I think I probably would have been happy with this level of content if it wasn’t for all of the artificial lengthening.
In the end there isn’t actually much good I can say about Tembo the Badass Elephant. It lacks in almost every way, with no story to speak of and pretty awful gameplay. The best I can say is that it is somewhat distracting for a while and it certainly is pretty and cute stylistically. However, one redeeming factor can’t sustain you for very long as you power dive into a crusher again and again.
I played Tembo the Badass Elephant on the PS4 and received my copy as courtesy. You can buy yours from the PS Store.
A good idea, nice art style and mix of ideas, absolutely terrible gameplay.