Preview: Tembo The Badass Elephant

Tembo is the elephant love-child offspring of Sonic the Hedgehog and Rambo – developed by the same company that bought you Pokémon. Your worst nightmare of a one elephant army scrolling his way through a 2D platform environment. Your mission is to rescue humans who have been captured by the evil forces of PHANTOM while also saving the precious supplies of peanuts from behind enemy lines. Collect enough peanuts and you can concoct a handy jar of peanut butter – which as we all know, is the best way to resurrect a fallen elephant comrade in combat.

• Developer: Game Freak
• Publisher: SEGA
• Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
• Also Available On: Xbox One, PC
• Release Date: July 2015

As a title about a Badass Elephant may suggest this is a game that does not take itself too seriously and looks to add a bit of comedy to everything about the game; from some funny references in the background and foreground of the environments to the almost distractingly amusingly cute animations of the main character – especially as he tries his hardest to eek out his jumps and wiggles his big little legs in the air.

Tembo-Enemy-Smash

However, the cutesy appearance is all for show. At the heart of Tembo The Badass Elephant beats a fairly hardcore platform game. While not as repetitious in the bloody mess of death as a game such as Super Meat Boy and perhaps not the hardest of difficulty in platform challenges, it does seem more akin to a Donkey Kong Country – with a certain level of precision needed to negotiate the precarious and often deadly platform assault course between you and the end of the level.

Your passage through the environment is against the clock, although your time is only shown once a level is complete. There is a frenetic nature to the environmental traversal and you will feel a certain level of satisfaction for just barrelling through the worlds with reckless abandon – right up unto the point where you happily roll into a flaming crate, giant enemy tank or simply plummet to your (peanut butter requiring) doom. You soon realise that if you do not know exactly where you are heading to, you may want to travel more cautiously and deliberately then the game’s initial burst of speed and comic presentation would suggest.

Tembo-SMASH!

You will also soon realise that the critical path through the level will only get you so far. You are tasked with rescuing ten humans scattered throughout each level. Many of these hapless humans lie off the beaten path and will require a detour to encounter. These detours offer their own pitfalls that are likely to further sap your energy meaning you have to balance the reward of exploring with the risk that this will hamper your overall progress throughout the level. Especially on your first journey through a level, it is not always readily apparent of which possible route is the way to progress and which way is the detour. Bar the slight annoyance of not knowing which way to go the first time, this feels more like clever than underhand level design.

While the flow of the game may be more similar to a Donkey Kong Country style, the moves at Tembo’s disposal are undoubtedly similar to Sonic’s move-set. Tembo can: charge, spin, jump, butt-stomp and uppercut his enemies. There are also a number of other environmental puzzles and hazards which have to be negotiated thanks to the help of Tembo’s trunk which can be used to suck up and redistribute water. Tembo fights everything – even fires!

Tembo-Fire-&-Water

I have only played through the first few levels and time will tell if the high quality of this early portion of the game continues throughout. While I am not the biggest fan of platform games it is almost as hard to ignore the quality of the well-crafted components, as it is to avoid playing with a smile on your face. I am not sure that I have ever wanted to play a platform game more. The balance of hazardous environments with tight precise controls may be a little frustratingly unforgiving at times but does a good job of making you feel powerful and vulnerable at the same time.

An elephant never forgets his duty – and Tembo is an elephant worth remembering.

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Official Game Site

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