If there was an award for the best game title of 2015, we’d already have our winner. Tembo the Badass Elephant is the latest title from Game Freak, the folk behind the reasonably successful Pokemon games, but takes a diversion away from their usual game to produce what is already looking like a gorgeous and hugely enjoyable platformer.
So. Aliens have invaded Earth. Swines. With the military struggling they call in reinforcements, and old war veteran who has since retired and moved away to quieter pastures. You’ve guessed it, Tembo is back, tempted by a vast number of peanuts and the opportunity to open a can of whoop-ass on anything which stands in his way. And plenty will get in his way, but with his Rambo-esque headband and bulky frame it’s going to take a lot to stop him, as he takes on strings of bad guys, tanks, vehicles and walls amongst dozens of other obstacles. Various types of attacks will help with this: you can charge at the bad guys, perform uppercuts with your trunk, and perform various spin attacks in the same way a certain 90s hedgehog might have done in his prime.
Playing this on the PS4 was a joy, even in the not-quite-finished version we played. Controls are tight, and while it takes a while for muscle memory to kick in and get your head round the various attack methods everything is very tight and smooth – I’d previously read issues regarding the framerate on the PC version, but I didn’t experience that on the PS4, even when the action got a bit bonkers with lots going on. The levels we were able to try out looked great too, with some fantastic colourful cartoony art and beautifully drawn characters combining nicely.
In terms of other gameplay bits, you collect peanuts as you go which build up to giving you an extra life later down the line. There are also various hostages around the place for you to rescue, who ride on your back once you’ve picked them up. Some are pretty well hidden or need some clever thought to reach, others are in plain sight but might bring you into line with some enemy fire which you need to avoid. It’s not essential that you pick them up, but who wants to end a level having only picked up 6 of 8 hostages?
And so while Tembo the Badass Elephant (who can’t love that name?) is a big sidestep away from Game Freak’s usual style, it’s panning out really well. This is definitely one to keep a close eye on, with a release date for some time over the next few months.