Just when you thought it was safe to invade a peaceful city with your Cobra/Hydra-esque technologically advanced shadow cabal of purple clad evildoers, here comes Tembo The Badass Elephant to ram, smash, spray and butt stomp them into oblivion. Created by Pokemon masterminds Game Freak and published by the venerable Sega (Everybody loves Sega, right? Think about Bayonetta, dooooooon’t think about Sonic Boom.), Tembo blends 2-D side scrolling and platforming clichés into something glorious, resembling a stew of classic Sonic, Wario Land, Donkey Kong Country, Capcom’s Viewtiful Joe, SNK’s Metal Slug and the work of beloved indie developer The Behemoth (no, not THAT Behemoth). Add in some Rambo/Commando style 80’s movie cheese and a booming, action movie-esque soundtrack to underscore all the Michael Bay level destruction at hand and you’ve got a game that’s really hard to dislike.
A few shortcomings pop up here and there, difficulty can be uneven, especially when it comes to boss encounters, and the level progression that requires a certain amount of enemies to be defeated before a player can move on may require some backtracking for those less thorough, but the gameplay itself is so fun that going back and searching for that last hidden soldier to stomp in order to obtain a perfect score on a level was no chore at all, at least in my opinion. Graphics are beautiful to behold as well, with hand drawn flash-esque sprites cavorting over cel-shaded 3D rendered backgrounds, and tons of hilarious cartoony personality in all of the art design. The game never slows down or stutters either no matter how much wanton destruction Tembo wreaks, and it’s quite a feat considering the property, equipment and enemy damage this Paramilitary Pachyderm gets up to.
I had a lot of fun with Tembo and I’m sure I’ll jump back into it and have even more in the future. It’s not a retro home run like last year’s masterpiece Shovel Knight was but there’s still a lot here for retro minded gamers looking for a challenge to sink their tusks into.
Tembo The Badass Elephant is now available digitally where all fine video games are sold.