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Tembo the Badass Elephant Review

Replay Value:
Overall Rating:
Online Gameplay:
Not Rated
Game Freak
Number Of Players:
Release Date:
July 21, 2015

What do you get when you cross Dumbo and Rambo? Why, Tembo: The Badass Elephant , of course. The new side-scrolling 2D platformer from Game Freak and Sega puts you in control of an elephant soldier that, despite his weighty behind, moves a lot like Sonic in the olden days. You will sprint, smash, dive-bomb, and hurtle towards the finish line of every enemy-packed level, thriving on the player’s ability to control Tembo’s speed and momentum. The result is a nicely designed, endlessly engaging old-school adventure with a hefty dose of cheerful craziness. It’s not without its flaws but it’s a solid, wonderfully fun little quest that could serve as a worthy distraction on the next rainy day.

On first glance, based on what I saw in the media, I wasn’t overly impressed with the visual presentation. The graphics, while generally appealing to the eye, didn’t seem especially accomplished and actually came across as somewhat flat and uninspired. However, the key to the game’s visual attraction lies in its fantastic sense of movement. Sure, the game won’t blow anyone away when Tembo is sitting still, but when is Tembo doing that ? The animations that accompany every movement, on the part of both the main character and the enemies, are downright stellar, and these are what makes the experience viscerally remarkable. The level design is nice as well, even though there are some understandably frustrating segments.

The sound further plays into the goofy, over-the-top style by focusing squarely on the cheerful nature of the game. For instance, while you’re technically “killing” your foes, they’re hardly erupting in bright, gushing geysers of blood. No, they simply go “poof” and disappear, which is fitting for such a game. The soundtrack is a little too repetitive – and can get annoying very quickly – but otherwise, you’ll be happy with the combat and overall gameplay effects. As is the case with the visual effects when Tembo is at full tilt, the audio really shines when you’re moving at speed. It’s almost as if every technical element is begging you to fly through each level with breakneck abandon. And you know, that works.

If you’re unfamiliar, Game Freak is the developer that brought you Pokemon . This is a bit of a departure for them (as anyone who played the hell out of the Pokemon games on GameBoy Advance will tell you) and it’s pretty straightforward: Tembo was recruited into a war waged against an evil military organization called PHANTOM. Tembo just has to wreak as much havoc as possible while attempting to rescue various POWs, and if this sounds a lot like good ol’ Contra , you’re not far off. Of course, the control and gameplay is fast-paced platforming ala Sonic and it doesn't let you catch your breath. It takes a little time to grow accustomed to all the finer points of control, but it’s worth the learning curve.

Tembo doesn’t have a wide variety of abilities, which is a minor drawback. All he can really do is dash forward or perform a ground smash; he can eliminate lots of enemies at once with either maneuver, though, provided the execution is on point. He can also spray water from his trunk, which lets him douse fires and short out pesky electrified obstacles. But for the most part, Tembo just dashes and slams and that’s about it. At first, I considered this to be a bigger downfall because I figured I’d get tired of the same ol’ same ol’ and I lacked a sense of progression. If I’m not unlocking anything cool for Tembo to use as the game wears on, am I still going to be having fun? Will I tire of running and jumping?