TEMBO THE BADASS ELEPHANT
By Ferry "Sadhonker" Adams on July 22, 2015
Once in a while, a game comes along which you just know you HAVE to play. It can be the title that attracts your attention, or the graphics or the promise of hours of hilarious fun to be had. And sometimes, just sometimes, a game comes along that seems to feature all of the above. One such game has landed in our lap, weighing in at about seven and a half tons. So it's time for us to release our inner mastodon of mayhem and play TEMBO THE BADASS ELEPHANT.
Right, here's what we know so far; We are in Shell City, a city under siege. The evil armies of a group called Phantom are tearing through the streets with their fearsome warmachines, effectively reducing this once so fine city to ashes and rubble. The National Army won't stand for this kind of behaviour and tries to push back Phantom's forces and drive them from the city. This however, proves to be a task far too great for simple humans, so they enlist the help of the only one who is up to this giant task... you!
You are Tembo, a commando elephant with an attitude. Together with your trusty bird friend Picolo, you are also the only ones standing between Shell city and its complete annihilation. So you set out on a quest to defeat the forces of Phantom and restore Shell City to its former glory, dispatching Phantom’s forces and gathering tons of peanuts along the way...
Tembo the Badass Elephant is an action-packed 2D-sidescroller that strongly reminds me of games from the heydays of the genre, like: Sonic, Super Mario and Commander Keen. It takes me back to a simpler time, a time without regenerating health, cover-based shooting or useless multiplayer modes. A time when it was just you versus your computer in a spacebar-destroying battle to the death (or, at least until you ran out of continues...) So to have a actual 2D side-scrolling platformer available on a current-gen console or PC is a real treat! As you may recall, we at DumeeGamer.com were equally excited for another 2D game that released this year: Guns, Gore & Cannoli, which I hoped would be awesome and turned out to be even more than I'd hoped for! And although they’re two completely different games, they both capture that good old feeling of 2D gaming and provide a more than decent platforming challenge. So you can imagine I was sincerely hoping Tembo would tread that same path to glory.
When you start up the game, it shows you a brief comic-style cutscene, silently describing the events leading up to the deployment of our seven ton titan. When the cutscene ends, you’ll enter a tutorial which shows you all the different actions Tembo can perform, like the Smash, the Buttstomp, the slide or the uppercut, just to name a few. After this tutorial, it’s finally time for some ground-shaking action. You enter Shell City, where you are greeting by the commander of the National Army. He explains the situation to you and shows you how to enter specific parts of the city by using the military’s super-computer. After this, you enter the first part of the city and try to make your way towards the Phantom Dome, located at the very end of each ‘chapter’. Phantom’s forces will not take this lying down and will try to stop by any means necessary. Flamethrowers, swords, spiked shields, rockets; nothing is spared in their attempts to stop Tembo from reaching and destroying his goal.
The first thing that struck me when playing through the first few stages of Tembo the Badass Elephant, was how well the game actually plays. No dodgy controls, just a simple and intuitive control scheme that really does the trick. By combining Tembo’s abilities, you’ll soon discover more and more creative ways to put a stop to the invading forces, and will rapidly make your way through the ruined streets of Shell City. Don’t tear through them too fast, though! Because if you do, you’ll surely miss the captured citizens spread throughout the city. When you discover one of them and break their cage, they’ll climb on your back and ride along all the way to the end of the stage. When traversing a level, you’ll come across floating peanuts. Gather as much of these nutty beauties as you possibly can, because a certain number of peanuts collected rewards you with a jar of peanut butter that you can use as a continue after dying (or in Tembo’s case: after the ‘Elephant down’ distress code). So the more peanuts you collect, the more continues you’ll have when making your way through a particularly nasty level.
Next to captured citizens and floating peanuts, there’s another reason why you shouldn’t try to race through the city, and that’s because you’ll miss all the background artwork. And please believe me when I say, you really don’t want to miss it. The cartoony art-style of the game is a perfect match for its theme and is really beautifully done. To enhance the cartoonish feel of the game, some of the sound effects in the game are shown on the screen as text, just like in the old Batman television series. And I don’t know if it’s just me, but this is something I still think is really cool!
Another thing that is really cool is the heroic sounding music, incorporated into the game’s soundtrack. It gives Tembo that good-guy-but-still-dangerous edge and helps you get into the swing of things. You’ll feel slightly more brave, more heroic and more determined to save the city. And because of really good level design, you can keep on feeling heroic for times on end, without the game starting to feel repetitive or boring. By adding secondary goals to your mission, the developers challenge you to really give it your best shot and try to rescue as many citizens as possible, while at the same time going for the highest number of enemy casualties.
So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen: a brief summary of Tembo The Badass Elephant. Earlier in this review, I wondered if it would be as good as I’d hoped. Well, after playing it for myself, the conclusion can only be… ABSOLUTELY! I had hoped for a halfway decent platforming game, that would amuse me for a while. What I got however, was an awesome, action-packed platforming experience, filled with cool characters, great gameplay, cool cartoony graphics, heroic music and a boatload of peanuts. So in short, a game that definitely deserves to be played by everyone who likes platforming games and a decent challenge. So let's all, for once in our lives, be the elephant in the room and just have fun wrecking the hell out of Phantom's forces!