Friday, July 31, 2015

Tembo the Badass Elephant (PS4) Review

When the city is in danger, there is only one to call to save them all... Tembo, the Badass Elephant!  The game starts with a cute scene that sets up the premise - Tembo is called upon to defeat the evil Phantom group taking over the city with its war machines.  Once the premise is quickly out of the way, the game drops you in the shoes, err feet, of Tembo, and off you go.

Tembo is an action platformer where you must make your way through each level, defeat some badguys, and rescue civilians.  There are four sections of the city, after which there is a boss fight.  To unlock the fourth level in each zone, you must defeat a certain number of enemies.  Each stage has citizens to rescue and enemies to defeat, which the game keeps track of.  These are, in essence, collectibles.  Unfortunately, you have to defeat about 90% of the enemies to even get through the game.

I'm fine with collectibles.  I actually like getting them.  I don't like when you have to get a lot of them to even continue.  They should be fun extras.  On a side note, I'm fine with them tied to a special ending, since you should get some reward for getting them.  This is a point of contention with me and one of my fellow reviews.  Either way, you will likely be forced to replay at least one stage to try and get enough enemies to unlock the further stages.  It is annoying and shouldn't be necessary.  I guess it increases playtime, but it is definitely forced.

There aren't many functions for Tembo, but they respond pretty well.  He can jump, charge and spray water from his trunk.  If you hold the jump button, Tembo will flap his legs and float for a bit.  Besides looking funny, it is effective at extending his jump distance a bit.  I have had a few instances where it doesn't respond as well, but it was few and far between.  The charge is your main attack, and in the air it will do a diagonal dive.  This messes me up often, as button presses will queue up, so be careful about mashing attack.  If I did an attack or got hit and went into the air, I would accidentally do the dive attack.  The water is used to put out fires.  You can spray while charging, which is really useful and as far as I can tell, the game doesn't tell you.  Using them together will change the color of Tembo's charge, so you know you are doing it.  Don't over-do it, since water is limited.

While the game looks kind of cute, it isn't easy.  It's not super hard, either, as long as you learn from your defeats.  There is no time limit, but the game always made me feel I had to rush.  Don't.  It is already way too easy to get hit in the game, since you don't have a dodge move and Tembo himself is a large target.  Rushing exacerbates this problem.  There are plenty of places where the enemies get a cheap hit, simply because you didn't know what was off-screen.  Once you do the section again, it is much easier since you know what you are dealing with.

It is also very easy to over think the game.  Most things are straight forward, with just a little pattern recognition to defeat enemies.  The first boss was a good example of me trying to be fancy.  I figured I would have to dodge his attacks and hit him when vulnerable, like most games, but that ended up with me losing a few times.  Eventually, I just kept ramming him and taking the damage, which easily beat him.  I'm not even sure that was the intention, but I'm sad it worked so well.  Action platformers tend not to have the Dynasty Warriors approach (just keep hitting it) to bosses and instead require more finesse, but I guess they skipped that lesson.

Tembo the Badass Elephant is a decent game with a great title.  It controls pretty well, but suffers from forced replay unless you play each stage perfectly.  It's also way to easy to get hit, but it is easy to learn from your failures.  Great animation and character, but only an average platfomer overall.

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