Tembo the Badass Elephant is a great little platformer for those of us who are nostalgic for the 80s and 90s – in many ways, both good and bad. Here’s our review.
Tembo’s launch wasn’t exactly flawless on Steam, as the initial release rendered the game unplayable – and not exactly ‘badass’. Luckily, this was quickly fixed by Sega so we could get our badassery on. The game is a fairly straightforward platformer, similar to the arcade and console platformers we know and love from about 25 years ago – including Sega’s own Sonic and SNK’s Metal Slug. Tembo the Badass Elephant is a bit of a mix between the two, featuring gameplay elements from Sonic and a visual style not too unlike the one seen in Metal Slug.
Tembo himself is a lot like the 80s movie hero that sounds very similar: Rambo. He’s no-nonsense, can deliver a mean uppercut, and shake things up with a strong ground pounding move. Perhaps most similar to Sonic is his ability to roll into a ball and deliver damage and move around that way. Little puzzle areas provide a break from the platforming action, and require you to overcome obstacles using your unique elephant abilities – ranging from a show of strength to the ability to spray water. This isn’t done in a purely retro style by the way – Tembo’s visuals are bright and colorful, and the animation is excellent.
Another blast from the past, however, is the game’s lack of a decent ‘continue system’. You get a certain number of lives, and when you run out – you have to start a level over again from the very beginning. No mid-level checkpoints that carry over to your next attempt, and certainly no mercy if you met your doom just before reaching the end of the level. It doesn’t deter from the fun – and extends the game’s relatively short length – but we can’t help but feel that better options would have been available. The same can be said for the grinding process that takes places in the later levels, where you have to re-visit previous levels if you don’t have enough kills behind your belt to unlock the rest of the game.
This isn’t necessarily a problem either – games like Rayman use the same mechanic – but the pacing can feel a little off at times. In earlier levels you can afford to be a little more careless about how many kills you rack up, but you’re punished later on – when going back to a level you tackled a while ago doesn’t seem like the most fun idea. Still – these are both minor issues, and the overall experience we had with Tembo the Badass Elephant was a lot of fun. It may not be up there with the likes of Rayman Origins, but it’s a quality platformer that’s sure to please those loyal to the genre.