Review

Tembo The Badass Elephant Review

  • First Released Jul 21, 2015
    released
  • PS4
  • XONE

Stomp terrorism!

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Before it became famous for Pokemon, Game Freak was designing action games like Pulseman. After a long hiatus, it's returning to its roots with Tembo the Badass Elephant, which is one of the best 2D platformers I’ve played. The story of Tembo is ridiculous, even by platform-gaming standards: a mysterious evil force called Phantom has invaded Earth, and humankind finds itself backed into a corner, fighting against this strange, oppressive regime. One hope remains to destroy Phantom: Tembo, the grizzled war veteran with four legs, a trunk, and two massive tusks. It’s up to our heroic pachyderm to crush the evil forces with his might--literally.

Being an elephant, Tembo is not normally a fast creature, but he’s got a whole mess of skills that make him a highly mobile platforming hero. Tembo’s main attack is a Sonic Rush-styled dash attack that smashes through anything in its way. The more you play, however, the more it feels like a mix between the movement of Yoshi’s Island (aerial flutter jumps and ground-pounds, aiming Tembo’s water-blasting attacks) and the modern Donkey Kong Country games (spinning jump attacks and rolls). Part of what makes Tembo so great is the slick, precise controls--you can seamlessly chain attacks and movements into each other, moving with fluidity and finesse. The sheer act of moving Tembo around--rolling and bouncing around the ground into a slide and then immediately following up with an upwards trunk-hammer bash--is a delight.

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It’s so fun, in fact, that you might be tempted to just smash through everything. But Tembo wouldn’t be a proper platformer without tricks, traps, and hazards. You’ll realize how carefully your skills must be used the moment you first dash headfirst into a pile of cunningly placed explosive crates. And those aren’t the only threats: while the average Phantom lackey is easy to stomp, they’ll start bringing out heavy artillery and tougher-to-crush weaponry as you progress. Stone walls might not be able to stop Tembo’s charging rampage, but explosive mines and homing missiles sure can.

The hazards play well into the stage design, a well-balanced mix of speedy dashing and bouncing around, careful platforming, clever gimmicks, tricky dodging, and even a bit of puzzle solving… oh, and plenty of crushing through barriers and buildings with mighty elephantine strength. In fact, one of the main goals in each stage is to destroy as much of Phantom’s presence as possible: every enemy or vehicle you crush and each civilian you rescue adds to Tembo’s tally of destruction. Some stages are locked until a certain number of Phantom enemies are destroyed, though if you play through each stage from the onset looking to cause as much damage as possible, these numbers aren’t very hard to hit. Don’t get too trigger-happy with your destructive urges, however; levels are filled with secrets, like collectible peanuts (get 300 for an extra life), trapped civilians (ten in each stage), and hidden rooms. If you smash before thinking and observing, you may discover you’ve destroyed a path to hidden goodies.

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That’s not to say the stages are easy. Like those of any good platformer, Tembo’s stages are littered with unique surprises and gimmicks, many of which involve the use of Tembo’s water-spraying trunk to put out fires, water plants that transform into useful objects, push platforms, and stun certain enemies. By combining the dash and the spray button, Tembo can even burst through fiery walls. Often, solving puzzles depends on using your water correctly. Other times, however, the threats are more urgent, such as electrified walls that immediately KO Tembo--and are quickly closing in behind you while you dash through a labyrinth of conveyor belts.

The variety of challenges makes Tembo fun and exciting, though the high-pressure, instant-death sections can become irritating because they tend to eat through your limited stock of lives much faster than any other parts of the game, throwing the otherwise solid pacing off. Much like platformers of old, Tembo has a lives system--once they're gone, it’s back to the beginning of the stage, no matter how many checkpoints you’ve hit. Because stages are fairly lengthy, restarting is a pretty harsh penalty.

After every four stages, you’ll encounter a giant mechanical boss. The boss designs are exceptionally clever. Each boss has a distinct method of attacking and a weakness to exploit that requires skillful play. One boss, a mechanical dragon, you’ll need to push off a cliff while neutralizing its fire attacks; for another, a robot bee, you’ll have to grow springy plants and dodge homing missiles to climb high enough to butt-bomb its weak point.

The worst thing I can say about Tembo is that it’s rather short. If you’re experienced with platformers, you shouldn’t have much trouble charging through Tembo in about six or seven hours. But there are plenty of ways to play it beyond the end screen. Tembo is the sort of game that encourages you to play for 100% completion and/or speedrunning, as well (it even tracks your times and high score). And with Tembo’s satisfying movement and controls, you could play through the game with some amazingly stylish platforming swagger.

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The Good
Tembo moves fluidly and is a joy to control
Delightful stage design offers a lot of variety in play
Lots of hidden secrets and replay value
The Bad
Short length leaves you wanting more
Some sections are controller-chuckingly tough
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Heidi is glad that Game Freak has once again visited their roots in platforming games. She sees herself replaying Tembo regularly, much like another of her favorite Game Freak games, the Genesis platformer, Pulseman.
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Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

It's barely within the first 10 minutes and I am already seeing elements of Donkey Kong,Sonic, and Mario, and more than a little Guacamelee.

This game entered the scene when the market is already saturated with side-scrolling action-platformers.

Avatar image for pedram007
pedram007

The Badass Elephant? Hmm how far has the industry sunken... /sigh

Avatar image for Lhomity
Lhomity

@pedram007: Yeah, what's next? Blue hedgehogs and anthropomorphized bandicoots wearing pants????

Avatar image for pedram007
pedram007

@Lhomity: I was talking about the name only...

Avatar image for namcan1995
namcan1995

Woa. Great :D

Avatar image for proaliasingman
ProAliasingman

How is 6-7 hours short for a $15 dollar game?

Hell with plenty of replayability it's easily a better value than most AAA titles cough* order 1886 cough*

Avatar image for tom_cat_01
tom_cat_01

Is this coming to Vita? Would seem like a good fit

Avatar image for Lhomity
Lhomity

@tom_cat_01: Sadly, no.

Avatar image for Bread_or_Decide
Bread_or_Decide

How is this not on Wii U?

Avatar image for Silverline62
Silverline62

@Bread_or_Decide: Wii u is too 2014, NX is the next thing!

Avatar image for Bread_or_Decide
Bread_or_Decide

@Silverline62 said:

@Bread_or_Decide: Wii u is too 2014, NX is the next thing!

The NeXt thing?

Avatar image for Silverline62
Silverline62

@Bread_or_Decide: *Puts on cool glasses* YEAAAAH!

Avatar image for naruto945
naruto945

@Bread_or_Decide: They are burying that system. It wont get Pokken Tournament either

Avatar image for bobbo888
bobbo888

@naruto945: then what will? lol

Avatar image for Pyrosa
Pyrosa

I would have completely ignored this had I not read this review; thanks!

Looks like this is what I'll be playing this weekend, then.

Avatar image for TRMDYL
TRMDYL

This is also coming to Steam for those who are interested.

Avatar image for cetaepsilon
cetaepsilon

This is not a political game or is it ?

Avatar image for Saidrex
Saidrex

@cetaepsilon: yes - vote for elephant in next elections!

Avatar image for cetaepsilon
cetaepsilon

@Saidrex : after this game ... damn right I will

Avatar image for Ahiru-San
Ahiru-San

"Short length" -- $5 or less, otherwise I'm not buying it. this is happening to a lot of games lately.. and they wanna charge $15-$30 for a couple of hours (or less)...

Avatar image for Lhomity
Lhomity

@Ahiru-San: The average SNES or Mega drive was $50USD and could be finished in an hour or two.

Modern games are too long, and have spoiled the current generation of gamers.

Avatar image for Ahiru-San
Ahiru-San

@Lhomity: dude, I'm one of those who paid $60USD for an ATARI 2600 game back in the days… which had no storyline, most games were an infinity loop, 10 minutes and you'd see it all...

that's not an excuse for the fact nowadays games "have" to follow that standard.

Avatar image for santinegrete
santinegrete

@Ahiru-San: I understand your vision of value, but playing filler sections of games isn't really better in the, At least you can wait for autumn sale on steam right? :D

Avatar image for Ahiru-San
Ahiru-San

@santinegrete: I can wait, not really interest in this that much to go-grab it...

Avatar image for DanielL5583
DanielL5583

@Ahiru-San: Not that it's happened for, like, a few decades...

Avatar image for guardianofhonor
GuardianofHonor

So is this game for the PS1 or PS2?

Avatar image for guardianofhonor
GuardianofHonor

@CallMeDuraSouka:

I started gaming with Doom back when I was 5 I think.

Avatar image for guardianofhonor
GuardianofHonor

@CallMeDuraSouka:

Well this is not the early 90s so that is why

Avatar image for guardianofhonor
GuardianofHonor

@CallMeDuraSouka:

Because they were not bad back then that was all we had looking back at it today is looking at it in reverse, just like VCRs didnt seem bad but who prefers that over DVDs?

I would agree that some games are timeless but not most of them people usually only play them today out of nostalgia.

Avatar image for naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

@guardianofhonor: I also started with Doom when I was five, but is a world with nothing but AAA games really what you want?

Avatar image for guardianofhonor
GuardianofHonor

@naryanrobinson:

Yes it is, mobile and shovelware trash is a blight upon gaming.

Avatar image for naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

@guardianofhonor AAA business practices are the blight on gaming. Indie games and what they mean for AAA developers is the savior of gaming.

Avatar image for guardianofhonor
GuardianofHonor

@naryanrobinson:

Right and as soon as an "indie" takes off they turn to the very same business practices as the "AAA" developers. Yeah they are not saving anything.

Avatar image for naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

@guardianofhonor: I see you're just another uninformed console gamer. I'm out of here.

Avatar image for guardianofhonor
GuardianofHonor

@naryanrobinson:

Alright have fun with goat sim and the badass elephant game. Im off to play good games.

Avatar image for naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

@guardianofhonor: Good, cause you're making everyone here more stupid by the minute.

Avatar image for Ahiru-San
Ahiru-San

@naryanrobinson@guardianofhonor I started at Atari 2600 when I was 2, but I find it hard to enjoy today's games with that kind of visuals…. but I still enjoy good old Atari games nevertheless.

still, I get his point.

Avatar image for Ahiru-San
Ahiru-San

@CallMeDuraSouka: never complained about this game's graphics… must have mistaken me with the OP...

I just said that I understand him...

Avatar image for Alucard_Prime
Alucard_Prime

Superb 2D game.....loving it

Avatar image for virtuasega
virtuaSEGA

Game Freaks...I remember the name foundly, helping my nephew years and years ago with the original gameboy pokemon games.

Avatar image for fallenstaph
Fallenstaph

its coming "WHY MY X GAME GOT X SCORE AND THIS /&/$%!" GOT A 8" wait for it

Avatar image for santinegrete
santinegrete

@fallenstaph: i hate so much that bland trend :(

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Tembo the Badass Elephant More Info

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  • First Released Jul 21, 2015
    released
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox One
    Tembo the Badass Elephant is a larger than life, 2D side-scrolling action adventure from the creative geniuses behind the Pokémon games.
    5.5
    Average Rating6 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Tembo the Badass Elephant
    Developed by:
    Game Freak
    Published by:
    Sega
    Genre(s):
    Action, Adventure
    Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
    Everyone 10+
    Fantasy Violence, Mild Language