SEGA and Game Freak Inc (Pokemon series, Pulseman) partner up once more to bring us a brand new platformer starring Tembo the Badass Elephant. I have been itching to get my hands on this game since SEGA first showed it earlier this year and now that I have beaten it was all my excitement worth it? Is Tembo the Badass Elephant a good enough game to earn the honor of having ‘badass’ in its title?
Tembo the Badass Elephant is a big homage to the early 90’s platformer era where you would have tons of animal based platforming games with unique mechanics coming out left and right. Just like those good old games of the 16-bit generation, Tembo the Badass Elephant skips the long drawn-out stories and gives you a simple story of a badass retired war elephant that has been called back on duty after after the citizens of Shell City has been kidnapped by opposing forces calling themselves ‘Phantom’. The story is presented in a storyboard/comic book style layout, mostly silent with no voice acting. I really liked the color usage and art style portrayed in the cutscenes.
The cutscenes are short, but that’s a good thing since you’re not here for the story. Platformers are all about the gameplay. Let’s talk about that.
One of the great things about the 16-bit platformer craze was that almost each animal they brought in tried to offer something unique to the gameplay we all knew and loved. Game Freak really made the game feel like your controlling a massive tank of an elephant that can charge through anything. The game has you running through enemies like nothing. Jump stomping on bad guys, uppercutting helicopters with your trunk, blowing water all over raging fires, and a few other moves are what this elephant has up his arsenal. All the moves work great and make sense with the type of animal that Tembo is. One of the moves that I did keep accidentally using was this one move where instead of butt stomping straight down, I would butt stomp diagonally. That was a bit annoying but I got used to it.
Another great thing that the game does is try to keep things fresh. Each stage has its own unique look and most offer new gameplay mechanics to use. One stage will have you bouncing off bumpers (See Sonic 2’s Casino Night Zone), squirting water on seeds to make platforms appear and a couple of stages even has you pushing a huge bowling ball of destruction because, ya know, why not? Talking about the bowling ball sections of the game, I found the physics in those sections to be really questionable. Not only that, the game had many times where it overall felt unpolished. I was still having fun during the game, but you can tell there should have been more time dedicated to getting the game as polished as possible. The game does feature 17 pretty well designed stages, so I can’t get too angry at them.
In the game your missions is to rescue as many civilians as possible (usually 10 per stage), destroy as many Phantoms as possible (each stage having their own number of Phantoms), and make it to the end where you destroy a big Phantom statue. One of the complaints I have seen from people online is that you need to destroy a certain number of Phantoms before you can progress further at some points of the game. Sadly this is true, and while I don’t think this was a logical or smart decision, it is in the game. Thankfully, I never had to replay a level due to the limit of Phantoms you have to kill being so low, resulting in me never having to re-play a stage forcibly.
Like I stated before, you will have to rescue hostages scattered through each stage. Sometimes they’ll be in easy spots that you can’t miss, sometimes they’ll be hidden by obstructions and sometimes they’ll be in a room with an interesting little puzzle to solve. One of the other things I like about the hostage collectibles being actual humans is that after you rescue them they ride on your back. It looks pretty ridiculous having 10 hostages riding on you while your destroying tanks like they’re nothing. I don’t know if this is just the PC version but one thing that ticked me off is you can’t bring up the bar showing you how many hostages you rescued. It pops up briefly when you rescue one, but fades away quickly and you can’t bring it back. That sucks because it shows you in order who you got and who you missed. That’s a bummer. Did I mention that in the game you also get to collect peanuts that act like rings in Sonic the Hedgehog and when you collect a certain amount here you make a peanut butter jar, which means you have one more life. Your lives are literally peanut butter jars, sounds like paradise.
The game has you battling waves of Phantom soldiers and Phantom machinery, from the baddies in the stage to the bosses of each section. The game gives you a total of 4 bosses which will test your memorization and pattern reflex skills. I swear that the second boss for some reason was driving me up the wall. I’m a bit disappointed that they didn’t add other elements outside of military (I guess the last boss of the game is a bit different than a military machine) soldiers or solider driven machines. I was sort of expecting their army to have a war elephant as well and you guys just go at it for a boss fight, sadly something like that never happens.
I’m playing the PC version, which right now isn’t being met so favorably by gamers. It seems that when the game launched on day one, it had quite a few issues, but it seems SEGA fixed most of them. They told me when they gave me the review code that they ‘fixed it’, but I will have to disagree with that statement. While the game is still plenty playable, the drop in frames is very noticeable and it happens every so often that it gets a bit annoying. This, mixed with the unpolished feel of the physics, makes me think that SEGA should have delayed the game because what I played is a fantastic game that seems rushed. I would have rated it higher if it wasn’t for these little setbacks.
Tembo the Badass Elephant is a worthwhile adventure that lives up to its name. You control a elephant with a multitude of skill sets, traverse tons of landscapes while you destroy Phantom soldiers and rescue hostages. The game’s stages shake things up by giving each place a unique look and most of the time introducing some sort of gameplay gimmick so it won’t feel repetitive. The game features over 17 levels, 4 bosses and tons of hostages to find for replayablity. The game is pretty entertaining, especially if your into 16-bit style mascot platformers!
My only issues are just how unpolished the game feels, physics on items won’t feel right and the framerate on the PC version is still bad. While we can hope for for a patch to fix these remaining issues (since I hear it had more problems day one) it does put a damper on what was really shaping to be a awesome experience. If the game didn’t have these issues I would have most likely gaven it a A, considering how much I actually enjoyed the game’s contents and playing as Tembo was fun.
- Each stage feels unique
- 17 well designed stages
- Old mascot platformer goodness
- Tembo’s unique abilities
- Unpolished feel
“A great mascot platformer with great level variety that falls short due to being unpolished.”