Review: TEMBO THE BADASS ELEPHANT (PS4)

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Title: TEMBO THE BADASS ELEPHANT
Format: PlayStation Network Download (1 GB)
Release Date: July 21, 2015
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Game Freak
Original MSRP: $14.99 (US), €12.99 (EU), £9.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: E10+
PEGI: 12
TEMBO THE BADASS ELEPHANT is also available on Xbox One and PC.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

I grew up on side-scrolling platformers. The genre spanned a plethora of games, some of them true classics that still stand the test of time. But as Moore’s law predicted, technology surged onward, paving the way for more advanced games. Many have forgotten or never even played the greats, such as the gorgeous Viewtiful Joe, the expertly crafted Super Mario World and the blisteringly fast Sonic the Hedgehog. Games of that quality are almost non-existent nowadays in a genre that rarely gets any love.

The lovely folks at SEGA asked if I wanted to review their new game from the minds over at Game Freak. There is no denying that TEMBO THE BADASS ELEPHANT (I’m not shouting, it’s just that all these words are meant to capitalised) has a great name. But is it a great game?

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Gameplay:
TEMBO THE BADASS ELEPHANT spans eighteen varied levels of platforming fun. With a simple and effective control scheme that allows the surprisingly agile elephant to roll, slide, jump and most of all, charge into so much within the destructible environments it puts the Battlefield games to shame. Everything from cars, houses, trees and even entire office buildings can be destroyed by the cute little plump mammal and it feels extremely satisfying doing so.

A perfectly balanced and gradual learning curve that makes the game feel deceptively easy and fun for all ages. A short comic book style cutscene introduces the simple story of why the army has tasked a Rambo-esque creature to save the day. You’ll spend the entirety of this game destroying your surroundings and rescuing the ten trapped civilians per level. Upon rescue they sit on Tembo’s back and never fall off, despite my efforts. Peanuts found scattered throughout the game combine to fill jars of elephant-loving peanut buttery goodness which also act as continues should the little guy lose a life.

… there are one or two secret areas per level …
I must be very rusty at these platforming games as I tend to kill my little elephant quite often. Thankfully every time has been due to my own mistakes and not the game’s. Checkpoints are frequent, well placed, and become more and more useful as the levels progress. I ended up utilizing most of the moves at my disposal apart from the slide, which only came into play once or twice. You can combo moves but it’s not a necessity and there are only a few major areas where you could get a big score.

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My need to save every trapped person and charge into all the bad guys loitering in every level not only quenches my compulsive tendencies but also rewards me with a couple of badges that sit proudly above each level icon in the menu. I did find the levels to be fairly linear but there are one or two secret areas per level so some exploration is needed if you want to find everything. The flow is excellent and I could have easily played the entire game in one sitting if it weren’t for something called sleep. Apparently it’s important.

I encountered two instances where I smashed the cell holding a trapped civilian but Tembo was unable to pick them up. These two occasions happened early in the game and gave me another excuse to replay the level. There are leaderboards to track how well you fared on each level compared with everyone else so doing everything in a level in the quickest time has its advantages.

… Tembo smashes his way through everything …
I will mention the memorable boss fights that are unique and tactical. Without giving away any spoilers I will say one boss took a while to vanquish and nearly became irritating. Inspiration seems to have come from some of the better boss encounters from the Sonic the Hedgehog games and the like.

As per usual I like to comment on the PS Vita Remote Play option with most games I review. I can happily report that this game looks and plays fantastically on the little handheld and it controls very well. Sadly there is no Platinum trophy amongst the fifteen trinkets found in this game but collecting them all would still take some skill and patience. It took around seven hours to complete the game and collect a large majority of the civilians. To get one hundred percent would probably take another few hours and it’s something which I might do soon.

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Visuals:
The comic book introduction carries on throughout the whole game, complete with comic book stylised text and clouds of smoke and fire as Tembo smashes his way through everything. Sending pieces of debris every which way is so much fun and entertaining each time I play. Your enemies don’t stand a chance and often try to run from the lumbering beast charging toward them. They too are sent catapulting into the air in a comedic way.

TEMBO THE BADASS ELEPHANT is a side-scrolling game built with the Unity engine which has allowed for a very smooth and vibrant look. Tembo is cute, especially when he tries to stay aloft at the end of a jump, his little legs wiggle and drops of sweat fly from his scrunched-up determined face.

… a wonderful and fun side-scrolling platformer …
Audio:
My only issue with the game is that it’s so very quiet. I had to turn up both the in-game audio and my television to get it to a reasonable level. Apart from that I really enjoyed the fun music and sound effects that accompanied the action. Some of the best include the tiny squeal from the terrified men as they run away, the screech as Tembo comes to a halt, and my favorite, the plink sound when you collect peanuts.

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Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single-player only.

Conclusion:
TEMBO THE BADASS ELEPHANT is a wonderful and fun side-scrolling platformer that’s very reminiscent of classics in the same genre, while still feeling fresh and new. It isn’t a massive game but you can rest assured that the quality outweighs the quantity. The game left me wanting more, it didn’t outstay its welcome, and I enjoyed every minute. It’s a gorgeous and high quality platformer that makes me feel young again.

Excellent boss fights and responsive controls make TEMBO THE BADASS ELEPHANT one of the best platformers I’ve played in ages. I want more! Oh and Tembo is definitely a badass.

Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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