Developed by:Game Freak Published by:SEGA Genre(s):
  • Action
  • Platformer
  • Platform:
  • Microsoft
  • PC
  • Sony
  • Cost:$24.99 ESRB Rating:EVERYONE 10+ Players:1 Release date:July 21, 2015 Reviewed on:XBox One

    Tembo the Badass Elephant

    I found Tembo to be a rather entertaining platformer; the long and short of it, the game feels like a hybrid of the Donkey Kong Country and the Sonic The Hedgehog series. That was a statement I made after previewing Game Freak’s Tembo the Badass Elephant back in June. It was a declaration of praise – a new IP that channels the best of classic titles in its genre while still being its own game is unique nowadays. Now that I’ve experienced Tembo’s full adventure, I can see that my early sentiments were not misplaced.

    Speaking of my preview, some of this review will tread old ground. This is because most of the early parts of the game remained the same in the final build. So, if some of this sounds familiar it’s because…well, it is.

    Tembo’s story opens with a rogue military group called Phantom launching a surprise attack on the fictional Shell City. It isn’t long before they’ve taken over the place, capturing many of its citizens in the process. Thankfully, an opposing armed force had an ace in the hole. Namely a retired commando elephant who rushed to their aid after receiving a distress call. Donning his red bandana, Tembo will do his best to rid the city of its Phantom oppressors.

    Like most 2D platformers, players will guide Tembo from one side of the screen to the other while dealing with enemies that get in his way. They’ll need to land tricky jumps over bottomless pits, avoid environmental hazards, and generally wreak havoc. That last part might sound odd given that it’s Tembo’s job to save the city. I’m guessing he’s less concerned with the potential property damage when it comes to rescuing Shell City’s inhabitants; he doesn’t mind bringing down a building or two dozen to get the job done. To be honest, I really didn’t mind demolishing everything in sight. Being the catalyst for the constant explosions and flying debris was exhilarating at times. This is especially true when using cannons. Similar to the barrels in Donkey Kong, jumping into one will rocket Tembo through the air, usually along a path consisting of floating peanut boxes and/or enemy aircraft. It’s ultimately just a transition from a given location to another but I still enjoyed the spectacle of it all.

    Most of your time in game will be spent holding the Dash button, allowing Tembo to charge into/through things. This is typically used to smash through walls, trample Phantom minions or to clear large chasms. Tembo’s speed doesn’t match that of Sonic but he runs through levels in a similar fashion. That said, there are plenty deterrents to blindly running in one direction; enemies with spiked armor, floating fireballs, and shield-wielding mechs are just waiting for you to run into them. The good news is that Tembo is full of tricks. Run into a baddie with a flame thrower? Try bouncing on their head. Better yet, hit Dash while in the air to roll into a ball and torpedo diagonally towards them. Using your limited reserves of water you can douse flames or if they are high enough, you can just dash-slide underneath them. A well placed butt slam will flip enemies with spikes onto their backs, allowing you to smash them with ease.

    The environments themselves also encourage you to tread cautiously as you progress through the game. Tucked away behind massive walls and in secret areas are humans that need rescuing. As they are freed from their prisons, they’ll each ride on Tembo’s back through the remainder of the level. Also, taking one of these secret detours might result in more peanuts collected. Once three hundred have been obtained Tembo is awarded an extra life. Then there are the water coolers that replenish his reserves and hearts that grant him health. Lastly are the enemies scattered all over, though I’ll explain their significance later. The idea though is that there is more to the levels than just getting to the end unscathed.

    One thing I didn’t enjoy when I played the preview build was the enemy quota. Each zone is made up of five levels. The first three are open from the start while the fourth is locked. The only way to unlock it is to dispatch a set number of enemies in the previous three levels. During my hands-on preview, it was difficult to hit these random numbers without having to replay cleared levels. This was because each specific enemy was only counted once. Meaning you’d have to search for new enemies that you didn’t encounter the first time through if you failed to meet the quota. And since they all make a return each time you start a level, it was hard to identify which ones you previously dispatched. These facts hold true for this version of the game as well. What saves the day though is that the bosses now contribute to your enemy counter, each adding 500 units once defeated. This “baddie boost” keeps gamers from having to retread old ground, yet still promotes exploration (you still need to take out a decent amount of enemies per level). Basically, Game Freak fixed a major flaw found in the preview build, showing that they do listen to their critics. You know, as opposed to just using preview articles as a way to promote their game. Splendid!

    What I most enjoyed during my hands-on time was the well-designed levels. The game presented a fair challenge and the puzzles/gameplay centered on you being an elephant (like having to put out fires using your trunk). After completing the game, I’d now have to say that I enjoyed the boss fights the most. Not only were they cleverly designed to feature elements that utilized your unique elephant characteristics, but they were also distinctly different from one another. Ranging from a dragon tank that spews fireballs to a giant bouncing disco ball, these battles are the culmination of all the challenges you faced in each zone. Toppling these menaces was certainly a highlight. So much so, that I wish there were more than just four bosses in total.

    Tembo the Badass Elephant is a fun time waiting to happen. Outside of a difficulty spike during the last three levels there’s really nothing for me to complain about. Some may want more collectables or genre staples, like underwater levels. Personally, I was content with what was present. Game Freak has succeeded in not only creating a worthy platformer, but also in creating a new mascot to root for. Hopefully this won’t be the last time we see Tembo the Badass Elephant!



    Tembo takes tried and true mechanics from past games and makes them feel fresh.



    The vibrant colors and cartoony visuals work well here.



    Though the soundtrack isn’t bad, it isn’t memorable either.

    Replay Value:


    The game is entertaining enough to warrant multiple playthroughs.

    Final Score:


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