Rambo the Commando Elephant is here to fight against the evil Cobra! Or something like that.
Developed by: Game Freak
Published by: SEGA
Released: 21st July 2015
Tested on: PlayStation 4
TEMBO THE BADASS ELEPHANT is a game developed by Pokémon people Game Freak and published by SEGA. It reminds me a bit of Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit, which was another SEGA-published digital title, developed by Arkedo. It’s pretty, has some great gameplay and just feels fun.
One of the things that really stands out when it comes to this game is the visuals. A charming cartoony look followed by some “visual sound effects” like “BADA BADA”, when dashing, or “WHAM!” and “BOF!”, when stomping. This really serves to give you the feeling of being inside a cartoon, which is great. Some minor details in the background also help in bringing some humour into the mix, like some of the billboards you see in some of the stages.
The premise of the game is simple. You play as Tembo, the titular badass elephant, as he fights to rid the world of criminal organization Phantom. To stop them, Tembo needs to dash, stomp and roll around 3 main areas (plus an extra, final one), killing enemy soldiers and rescuing civilian hostages. The story is told without unnecessary lengthy dialogues or cutscenes.
Each area has a few stages to complete and a boss awaits before you move on to the next area. Nothing revolutionary here. Just a city-themed area (Shell City), a forest/mountain-themed area and an amusement park/disco-themed area to explore, followed by the enemy’s HQ as the final area. Nothing we haven’t seen before, but they look really nice as the art direction here really suits the feel of the game.
Tembo is a joy to control. Sure, he’s a bit heavy (duh!), but as you press the dash button, he speeds up and (almost) everything in his way gets smashed to pieces and a combo meter builds up. Much like Yoshi, Tembo can float in the air for a few seconds if you keep the jump button pressed. Jumping and pressing down gives you a butt stomping attack, and jumping and pressing the dash button allows you to dive and roll over enemies. There’s also an uppercut move, used to get to higher enemies, and a sliding move. Another nice little touch is the fact that Tembo can shoot water from his trunk, which can be used to stop some enemy attacks and, most importantly, to solve some puzzles.
When I say puzzles, though, don’t expect to do much thinking, but there are some tricky bits where you need to decide which pillar to smash or in which direction to go first, otherwise you won’t be able to get that last civilian and get a perfect score. Also worth mentioning are the pinball sections in the third area (my favourite by a landslide). While a bit reminiscent of some of Sonic’s casino levels, they provide you with a nice change of pace and are a lot of fun to play through.
At its heart, Tembo is a great platforming adventure. One that is surprisingly challenging at times, though. You really need to kill as many Phantom soldiers as possible, because (a bit like in Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal) there’s a minimum number of slain soldiers requirement the player must meet before advancing to the next area. This only bothered me once, but if you’re not too familiar with the genre or just want to storm through the levels, it can be annoying as you’ll need to come back and replay past stages again.
Boss battles won’t provide that much of a challenge, as long as you’re patient and observe the enemies patterns. I had a much more difficult time getting through waves of fire shooting and bomb throwing enemies, or the challenging treadmill sections, than I had with boss battles. They do look epic though!
Other than this, my only major complaint about this game is the music. While I understand it actually suits the theme of an elephant turned Rambo, I was expecting a bit more variety and maybe something more upbeat, which I only got when playing the third area. I can’t say any particular track is that great, but they’re not bad either; just bland. This is a shame considering what a great soundtrack Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit - a game I consider to be quite similar to Tembo - has.
All in all, TEMBO THE BADASS ELEPHANT is a great little game, especially if you consider the price tag. If you’re of the completionist type, you’ll probably find yourself coming back to the game quite a few times until you can kill that last elusive soldier or find that hidden civilian. Other than that, there’s not much else to do, but, again, considering the price tag that’s not a problem. And I have I mentioned he collects peanuts and eats peanut butter to get back in action after you lose a life?
+ Great cartoon visuals.
+ Controls really well, especially when dashing.
+ Tembo has a huge variety of moves to use.
- Having to kill a certain number of soldiers to advance can be frustrating at times.