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Never has an elephant been more gloriously featured in a game than the 2D-platformer title, Tembo The Badass Elephant (TTBE).
I must admit that the first time I heard of this game it sounded absolutely ridiculous. After playing it, I must still admit this game is absolutely ridiculous, but in all the right ways. Everything about this game defies almost every rule in physics and challenges the very nature of reality and I love it.
Tembo The Badass Elephant is brought to you by SEGA and was developed Game Freak (the same people that brought you the plethora of Pokemon games) and I am sure that within the first ten minutes of game play you will be astounded by what a good game this simple looking title actually is.
Shell City, the setting for most of the game, is sent into total chaos after a terrorist group called PHANTOM attempts to invade it by force. The National Army (NA), led by the courageous General Krenman, tries to fend off the malevolent threat but they stand no chance as PHANTOM sends wave after wave of their soldiers and destructive mechanical creations.
Shell City has only one hope left now and it comes in the form of a badass, military trained elephant named Tembo. Krenman makes the call and within moments Tembo bombards into the scene and lets out a world-trembling trumpet.
He is met by a sea of salutes as he walks through the ranks of the NA up to his old friend, General Krenman. It is immediately apparent that this is an elephant that warrants great respect. But there is no time for catch up. Tembo is hastily informed of the situation and then without flinching freefalls straight through an entire skyscraper and proceeds to give PHANTOM a taste of their own destructive medicine.
Tembo the Badass Elephant conveys its story purely through the use of eccentric comic book style cutscenes. There is never a spoken or written word seen other than the odd “WHAM!” or “Boom!”
These cutscenes are brief and only provide you with the context to understand the progressing story. The story and game play are so well-balanced though that you never really feel like you are leaving the story.
The game might not boast the most in-depth and intricate narrative but it remains captivating none the less and it is a testament to how simple but well constructed storytelling can be way more poignant than complex but foundationless narratives.
Much like SEGA’s Sonic the Hedgehog titles, momentum is the name of the game in Tembo The Baddass Elephant.
But with Tembo there is not just an emphasis on speed but on destruction too. Tembo will cut through the enemy ranks (or basically anything in his path) like a warm knife through butter. Once you get the hang of the war elephant’s small but valuable arsenal of moves, TTBE can become a fluid and adrenaline-filled experience like no other.
Imagine charging through a tank, doing a slide kick through a small gap and then leaping over an airborne grenade just to plummet down on the fool who dared throw it. It’s time like these that this game is at its best.
Now you might think that this limited move set will lead to repetitive game play and in some ways you might be right. Most of the time you will be repeating a lot of the same moves. But thanks to some excellent level design and a wide array of enemies, Tembo The Badass Elephant never feels dull or monotonous.
The layout of most levels (once you’ve honed your skills a bit), will provide you with ample opportunities to blast out long combo sequences, which was by far the most satisfying part of the game play for me. The levels are also beautifully constructed, each boasting its own unique and eccentric cartoonish look.
When it comes to enemies, there will be more than enough to keep you busy. You will be facing anything from an army of foot soldiers to a giant dragon-headed armoured battle tank, each providing its own challenge.
Destruction is not the only thing on the menu though. Tembo is a hero after all, and he is here to save civilians too.
As you progress through the game you will see civilians being held in small futuristic looking one-man cells. To save these prisoners of war, all you have to do is destroy the cell and you will see the civilian cling to your back for dear life as you continue the path of PHANTOM obliteration.
Every time you save a civilian you will notice it being marked on the in the right hand corner. This meter will also tell you if you missed any civilians in any given stage. Saving them are not necessary to complete a level but it will count towards your overall high score.
Be warned, Tembo The Badass Elephant will use its addictive high-speed game play against you. There were many times I got so caught up on stringing a series of manoeuvres together that I would not even realise that I was charging straight into a tank’s bullet.
The game will regularly slow down and force you to take a more careful and strategic approach. Sometimes you will have to extinguish a tower of flaming boxes before charging forward again. Other times you will have to cautiously jump between moving platform (some of which will only appear for a few seconds at a time).
This provides a brilliant contrast to an otherwise very narrowed style of game play. There were times, though, I felt these sluggish parts were a bit tedious and getting in the way of the fun parts. But that could be because I regularly imagined TTBE as an action packed endless runner, something I think could be a great additional game mode.
Another important thing to note is TTBE’s rapidly increasing difficulty curve. There are 18 levels to play and by the fourth one I was already struggling to keep up with the challenges this game threw my way.
Release Date: 21 July 2015
Engine: Unity Engine
Platform: PC/Steam (review platform)
Verdict: Tembo the Badass Elelphant is quite different than anything I’ve played lately and it a refreshing experience I would recommend to any gamer. It may not have the glitz and glamour of AAA titles or the philosophical themes seen in recent indie games. It finds itself nestled some in a gap that hasn’t been filled in ages: a simple game that can be played in short burst but built with passion and imbued with substance.
Everything about TTBE is simple, both narrative and game play, but together it results in a surprisingly good gaming title. And for only US$14.99 on Steam, it more than lives up to its price.