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Tembo: The Badass Elephant Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . Tembo: The Badass Elephant trumpets in a new era of character-driven platformers from Sega. Although the character is adorable and the graphics are sharp, I was left disappointed by the frustrating difficulty and loose gameplay. Couple this with checkpointing issues and uninspired villains, and you have a 2D platformer that is simply going through the motions. Tembo deserves better. Rating: 50%
Tembo: The Badass Elephant
Tembo: The Badass Elephant Tembo: The Badass Elephant Tembo: The Badass Elephant Tembo: The Badass Elephant
  • Review Score:

  • C
One thing I loved about Sega was their ability to create entire worlds based on ridiculous, yet endearing heroes. This was a company that wasn't afraid to hand over an entire game to Greendog (the surfer dude) or Chuck D. Head (a guy who literally throws his head at enemies). Sadly, Sega seemed to abandon these character-fueled platformers as the industry shifted from 2D sprites to 3D polygons.

Tembo: The Badass Elephant hopes to remind longtime Sega fans of the company's golden years. It's a retro-minded side-scrolling action game starring a lovable hero fighting through a whimsical world. And for a while, I was completely won over by this likeable new character. But it didn't take long for me to sour on the game's frustrating difficulty and uninspired villains.

When the evil Phantom mechanized army threatens Shell City, General Krenman knows the best man for the job. As it turns out, the fierce commando in question isn't a man at all, but rather a badass elephant named Tembo. Although unorthodox, the plan is surprisingly solid. This 15,000 lbs. war veteran is able to ram through objects, spray out fires and handily defeat even the nastiest robot army.

Much like Sonic, Ristar, Dynamite Headdy and the rest of Sega's memorable champions, Tembo has a number of moves that make him a real fighting force. He has a powerful uppercut that can break through ceilings and rattle flying enemies. There's also a ground pound, which will be familiar to anybody who has played a platformer in the last thirty years. And don't forget Tembo's hose for a nose, which can be used to put out fires and solve a few simple puzzles.

With so many fighting moves, it should come as no surprise that a lot of this game will have our hero squashing soldiers, swatting down helicopters and dismantling tanks. The game throws a lot of different enemies at us, some requiring special tactics in order to send them off the battlefield. Tembo will also need to deal with a series of menacing bosses, each forcing players to memorize predictable patterns.

The goal of each stage is to not only defeat the enemy forces, but locate all ten captured civilians. These men and women are scattered throughout the stage, often in hidden and out of the way spots. Once found, the civilians will hop on Tembo's back and cheer him on as he fights his way through war torn Shell City, the Greenville Peaks, Zappo Land amusement park and beyond.

Tembo: The Badass Elephant (Xbox One)Click For the Full Picture Archive

It didn't take long for me to warm up to this badass elephant. The silly premise and likeable character won me over right from the start, and I was really into the action/platformer for the first few stages. But then it gets tough. Real tough. And not just challenging, but full of dumb cheap deaths and poorly placed checkpoints. It became more about memorizing the unfair terrain than having fun. That's the moment I turned on this badass elephant.

In Tembo's defense, it's not his fault. The developers have created a large character that is easy to take damage and occasionally difficult to maneuver. He's full of moves, but the precision is not quite there. Movement often feels too loose and Tembo doesn't react quickly enough to the press of a button. This is especially frustrating in the later stages, where our hero will navigate tricky platforming areas with bottomless pits.

These difficult areas are made substantially worse by the poor checkpointing. Each stage offers a couple of checkpoints, but they are few and far between. You'll end up losing a lot of progress and points with each death, which is much more significant than it sounds. In order for Tembo to unlock new stages, he'll need to collect points by defeating the enemy forces. While he doesn't need to find absolutely everything, Tembo won't be able to slack if he wants to see anything past Greenville Peaks.

The game essentially forces you to replay each stage until you have collected enough points, something that ended up wearing me down. It was in revisiting stages that I noticed how uninspired the designs were. The levels are filled with repetitive obstacles that never build to anything and enemies that inflict way too much damage. And since Tembo never learns new moves or finds power-ups, you're stuck performing the same tasks in every stage.

Tembo: The Badass Elephant (Xbox One)Click For the Full Picture Archive

On a positive note, I liked the game's look and immediately connected with Tembo as a character. It's cute how many things references peanuts and the visuals are sharp. To that point, I wish the enemies had more to do with the theme. They are, for all intents and purposes, a generic robot army. They're menacing, but never as interesting as Dr. Eggman or any of Sega's other evil villains.

Tembo: The Badass Elephant is a cute idea that falls well short of its potential. The game is not just frustrating, but also painfully repetitive. It's full of cheap deaths and terrible checkpointing, an unfortunate combination. But despite these problems, at least it shows that Sega is once again willing to take chances on character-themed platformers. And as far as I'm concerned, that's a good thing.
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