Forget Sonic, I think SEGA may have a new mascot on their hands, and that’s the badass ass kicking mammal, Tembo the Badass Elephant. For the first time in a number of years I’ve been reminded of the frustration found only in Sonic the Hedgehog titles from the Mega Drive era. It crams in that feeling with the joy of experiencing something new, and considering it’s made by the developers of the Pokémon games, they’ve done a great job.
Tembo the Badass Elephant is your typical fast-paced, lack of spacial awareness, hero who lets nobody stand in his way. He’s tasked with saving the world by smushing one goon at a time while also collecting trapped civilians. After around 10 minutes with the game I already felt at home with the controls, the way Tembo moved, and the overall concept of the game. To me it felt like a mixture of Sonic the Hedgehog mixed with Rayman.
So, as Tembo, you’re sent through a series of stages each with its own unique styling in this fantastic looking 2.5D world. Each of these stages are set in Zones too, which also gives Sonic another swift kick out the door. Each level is filled with a series of traps, goons, crates of peanuts, and trapped civilians for you to rescue, and while the game is wholly linear, there are some aspects of freedom in terms of exploring corners of each level for hidden items.
Much like Sonic, the game is brutal. Make a mistake and you’re screwed, but you also can’s help but charge head first into danger due to Tembo’s movement being oddly fluid, at least, for an elephant. The game definitely has a lot of smoothness to it as to how you move around the map, but at times you’re often faced with a brick wall that is an enemy firing their fireball canon at you, but hey, it wouldn’t be much of a challenge without that, right?
It is however worth noting that at times the game calls for your speed and destruction and careful manoeuvring, which can lead to a frustrating experience when you’re on a roll only to be told to slow the hell down and watch what you’re doing.
Aside from Tembo’s destructive nature, his other ability is to spout water from his trunk which can be used to put out fires and water seeds to have little stalks grown, if only for a moment. This is a pretty useful mechanic when faced with times of need, but really it felt like a necessary addition to keep the game from feeling too similar to Sonic.
The levels of each game can be easily completed with trial end error as you smash your way through goons, vehicles, and boxes of peanuts. If you fail, you’ll snack on a jar of peanut butter only to start again from where you left off. The only real time things start to get tough is when you hit the gateways between Zones, these require a certain enemy quota to be filled before you can pass.
Oh yeah, you probably didn’t notice that little pink counter at the top of each level did you? I didn’t, or at least, when I did I didn’t think it mattered that much. Yes, yes it does. This requires you to hop back into past games, meticulously trawling the levels for that goon you might have missed along the way, though chances are, he’s probably one you tried to avoid rather than batter.
The replayability of past levels isn’t all that appealing either, as you’ve probably come across a part of the level which frustrated the hell out of you, and having to trawl back through that once more to tackle and area you might have missed, or to find a bad-guy you’d rather avoid, does become pretty tedious.
Fortunately the game’s cartoonish charm does keep you coming back for more as the joy you get from smashing vehicles, boxes, and enemy contraptions is just too fun to give up. There are however points, especially after a couple of hours play, where the game starts to lose its lustre and fails to keep you hooked as you probably would with platformers like Mario or Rayman.
Overall Tembo The Badass Elephant offers a pretty good challenger to the likes of Sonic and Rayman, but sadly fails to keep the charm found in your first hour or two of gameplay. It’s an absolutely fantastic platformer in its own right and it can be as fun as hell to play, but it can become a bit of a drag after a lengthy play-session.
In short-sharp bursts the game can actually be a lot of fun, but it does quickly become one of those games you’ll open and play a few times, only to close it and glaze over it when looking for something to play.