Back when SEGA was still competing in the console market and mascot characters turned more heads than a war shooter, SEGA would put out some of the most unique platformers for their systems that you couldn’t find within Nintendo’s own impressive platformer catalog. Whether they were developed, co-developed, or simply published by SEGA, there was just something about a SEGA exclusive platformer that couldn’t be found elsewhere. Sonic the Hedgehog is the epitome of SEGA action platforming, but there is also the likes of Dynamite Headdy, Decap Attack, Monster World, Kid Chameleon, Ristar, Gunstar Heroes and Pulseman.
Now I purposely listed Pulseman last, which is an often overlooked Japan-only Genesis classic from 1994 that wouldn’t be shared with the rest of the world until its Virtual Console release on the Wii. Pulseman was a joint effort from SEGA and none other than Game Freak. Long before they created Nintendo’s cash-cow IP that is Pokemon, Game Freak released this experimental and stylistically charged platformer. Nearly two decades later, this partnership has been rekindled as SEGA and Game Freak are preparing to unleash Tembo the Badass Elephant on the PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. This larger than life platformer is nearing completion and the latest build indicates that this will be one of the most memorable releases of 2015.
Tembo the Badass Elephant is an action-packed and excitement-inducing platformer that embodies the vibe and attitude of the aforementioned SEGA platformers. Any die-hard fan of SEGA is going to get a lot of enjoyment, and even a feeling nostalgia, when they play Tembo. The current breed of gamers who were introduced to the genre by the likes of Super Meat Boy and recent Rayman offerings are in for something special.
Players take control of Tembo, who is quite literally a badass commando elephant. Fighting a war on his own, Tembo isn’t held back by his mass and stature, as he is super charged with talents that no elephant can dream of. When you think about it, how likely is it for a hedgehog to be the fastest thing on the planet? Much like Sonic, Tembo defies the laws of nature and delivers a Chuck Norris style trashing to all that oppose him.
Tembo is hugely entertaining as a platformer . The action is varied and is nicely complemented by the level design, which constantly mixes things up with tight platforming while providing opportunities to dish out some truly monumental damage to the environment and enemies. There’s epic boss battles that capture the magic of the simple yet memorable battles found in classic platformers. The levels are interesting in their layout and mechanical gimmicks, and there’s a lot of familiar elements adapted from classic platformers such as the canons from Donkey Kong and the springboards from Sonic the Hedgehog. At the end of the day, however, the thing that holds the experience together is the core gameplay. To put it simply, being a Badass Elephant is the most awesome feeling.
Tembo is an absolute joy to control; he is an unstoppable wrecking ball that can roll like Sonic, charge headstrong into anything and dish out a variety of attacks to deal with any situation or opponent. As big as he is, he is fast and also very very strong at same time. Some situations require smarts and wits, however, as he uses his trunk to spray water on fire and even on pods to grow platforms. The combination of unnatural speed, with the titanium strength of an elephant, makes controlling Tembo instantly engaging. Rarely do you control a character that feels so one-of-a-kind, something that must be experienced to be believed. Now Tembo the Badass Elephant is no push over when it comes to difficulty, but no matter what challenge is placed in front of you, you never once stop feeling like an unstoppable badass elephant that can absolutely own anyone and anything. If you want to feel empowered, then look no further than Tembo.
If there is one thing to nitpick about the experience, its the progression. Tembo the Badass Elephant is the kind of game you want to power through with no interruptions, but unfortunately some stages require a certain number of collectibles in order to be unlocked. The levels in Tembo are a ton of fun and worth revisiting, but being forced to do so in order to collect what is needed to open the boss stage sort of takes away from the enjoyment. That being said, even Super Mario 3D World is guilty of this design choice, forcing players to collect a certain number of green stars in order to progress.
Tembo the Badass Elephant is a reminder of why video games are awesome and why we love them so much. Games like Tembo are a rarity, and having SEGA and Game Freak partner to bring this future classic is going to be among the highlights of 2015. Indie platformers are a dime a dozen now, but Tembo the Badass Elephant has all the right qualities of an memorable platformer that is built to last. If the rest of the game outshines what was in this build, then Tempo the Badass Elephant is going to be a serious contender for some awards when it lands on the PC, PS4, and Xbox One.