I know I know, it’s weird hearing that Game Freak made a game that isn’t Pokemon, but here we are with Tembo The Badass Elephant. After having just spent 6 and a half hours 100% the game, I have to say, what a weird confusing experience it’s been. If this review seems a bit all over the place, then I apologise, but Tembo The Badass Elephant has unfortunately frazzled my brain.
The game starts out easy enough, with the graphics being somewhat charming, and with the story being funny and nowhere near serious in any way. A group called “phantom” has invaded a peanut shaped land, and is holding all civilians hostage. The lands general, in need or urgent help against these bad people, calls in someone he used to work with whilst he was in the jungle.
In comes Tembo, and with this huge elephant, a whole new way of playing platformer games. Due to Tembo’s size the platforming mechanics have had to be reworked. You don’t need to worry about many walls or enemies, as Tembo will just triple through them with relative ease. So with the core mechanics changing in this way, how does Game Freak manage to make a challenging and compelling game? Through variety and collecting.
Whilst core enemies are of no concern, Game Freak have made a variety of different enemy types, all of which are easy to deal with A mano a mano, but the second these enemies start grouping together you’ve got a fight on your hands. Take for example the flamethrower grunt; his attack is straightforward and easy to see through: simply wait for him to recharge his flame, and rush into him. Seems simple enough, but when you start putting this very same flamethrower man alongside robots that glide, and bomb throwing grunts, you start having a very challenging time.
That’s not to say Tembo isn’t without his own array of arsenal. Using his hulking size, you’re able to sprint through enemies, slide, uppercut and finally spin dash at them (the last move is similar to sonic; jump and press x to lunge towards enemies as a ball). These attacks are all the arsenal you’ll need against both terrain and enemies, but use them wisely: i found myself dying far too many times because I was trigger happy and would press the X button before touching the ground, leading me to spin to my death.
Along with Tembo’s abilities for movement is his ability to use water from his trunk to put out fires. Whilst this mechanic is shown off at the start of the game as a brilliant way to differentiate it from other platformers, I found it was rarely needed throughout the campaigns 17 levels. Wherever there was fire, there was a way round it.
The collecting part of Tembo is what got me so hooked on the game, and kept me coming back to levels time and time again. There’s two collectibles on each stage: 10 civilians to collect, and kill every enemy within a stage. The two kind of go hand in hand; each time you collect a civilian, you’ll have 10 phantom points added to the total number of enemies you’ve killed, meaning you’ll need to get everything a level has to offer if you want to get all the medals.
There are boss fights throughout, and I found them actually rather challenging compared to most levels. Sure, the first boss fight can be done easily, but every subsequent one took me at least half an hour; a brilliant sign of their difficulty in putting your knowledge on how to control Tembo to the test. I found the final boss especially frustrating, mainly due to the lack of checkpoints throughout his many stages; a true testament to testing the abilities you’ve mastered.
The stages were aesthetically pleasing for the most part, but ignorable all the same; for the vast majority of the game you don’t really notice what colour the ground is, or whether you’re in a city or forest; all that matters is killing every enemy, and charging through, making sure to look out for breakable walls or collectible civilians.
If there was any gripes I could have about the game, it would be in how temperamental the controls were; the spinning dash sonic move could just have easily have been remapped to the Y or B button to make sure players didn’t accidentally press it whilst in a pickle (Like I did far too often).
With the game currently on sale as I write this, is Tembo the Badass Elephant as Badass as Game Freak like to think? Yes, albeit be prepared to get frustrated throughout, as you’re in for a challenging difficulty curve throughout the game’s 6 hour campaign. Platforming fans who enjoy collecting should really enjoy Tembo, but if you’re put off by collecting and don’t like fickle controls, it might be worth looking elsewhere.