Review: Tembo the Badass Elephant (PlayStation 4)

Tembo the Badass Elephant: Official GBAtemp Review

PlayStation 4 2,144 views 5 likes 7 comments
Reviewed by Nathan Nendez, posted Jul 13, 2015, last updated Jul 20, 2015
Jul 13, 2015
  • Release Date (NA): July 21, 2015
  • Publisher: Sega
  • Developer: Game Freak
  • Genres: Action, 2D Platformer
  • ESRB Rating: Everyone 10 and up
  • PEGI Rating: Twelve years and older
  • Also For: Computer, Xbox One
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
Tembo the Badass Elephant is a 2D side scrolling action platforming title created by Game Freak about one badass elephant on a mission to destroy the PHANTOM army.
Nathan Nendez

As the game begins, you witness Shell City in the midst of war after being invaded by the PHANTOM army. As the battle seems difficult to win, the general of the defending army begins thinking back to a time when he served alongside a certain elephant. Thinking this elephant would be perfect for the job, Tembo gets called in to put a stop to the PHANTOM army once and for all.

Because sometimes the only solution to a problem is a rampaging elephant

Tembo has three missions to accomplish while fighting the PHANTOM army: destroy the PHANTOM domes, the main PHANTOM army invading vehicles, primarily, and secondarily rescue all civilians and defeat every single member of the invading army. The game itself is divided into 18 stages across four different zones. These zones include Shell City, Greenville Peaks, Zappo Land, and one more zone where the PHANTOM army is stopped once and for all. Each zone presents unique challenges, and none overstay their welcome. Entering a new zone brings a refreshing change in scenery as well as new challenges to overcome. Each zone is generally split into five stages as well, with the final two levels in the first three zones being first a PHANTOM dome, a level through one of the giant invading PHANTOM army vehicles, and the second being a boss fight, each of which tends to be challenging and fun. For fans of completion or just those who want to get the high score, all stages contain a specific number of enemies that you can take out, as well as ten civilians to rescue from the clutches of the PHANTOM army, along with a timer that altogether gives a level score. Although rescuing all civilians and defeating all enemies isn't necessary for beating the game, going after these challenges is the best way to experience all that each stage has to offer. Last but not least, stages also contain peanuts, the currency of the game collected towards gaining more lives. Every 300 peanuts is one more life, shown as jars of peanut butter, and peanut totals thankfully carry over from stage to stage.

Burn, baby, burn, disco inferno....I mean, uh, don't forget to rescue people

But how about gameplay? What's it like playing as this so-called badass elephant?

Playing as Tembo brings an experience reminiscent of other games in the genre. Tembo himself has a small array of moves used to navigate levels as well as fight the PHANTOM army. He can jump, do a small hover by kicking his legs, sprint forward with deadly force, perform a jump slam, do a spin attack to rocket like a cannonball in midair, use his trunk for an uppercut, as well as use his trunk to spray water. The moves are fun to perform and add a level of strategy to enemy encounters as you decide what the best moves for any particular situation might be. The vast majority of these actions are performed with only jump and two other buttons: one for spraying water, and one for everything else with different moves performed by angling the control stick various ways either on the ground or in the air. Although these moves can be fun to perform, by all being bound to a single button, more than once I caught myself accidentally throwing myself over an edge into deadly fire, an abyss, and various other ways that you can accomplish losing a life by falling into the wrong place. It would have been nice if there were options to map specific Tembo actions to the various unused buttons on the controller. For the most part though, I didn't experience too many issues with the controls as I ran, jumped, and slammed my way through each stage. Various enemy types employ all of Tembo's skills including tanks, missile turrets, helicopters, spike shelled soldiers, gun toting soldiers, and more. The water adds an interesting element as you find yourself against fire spewing tanks, flamethrower soldiers, and even just flaming crates. Although it didn't have much use early on, water becomes something you can't be without by later in the game. No skill feels useless, and all are necessary for driving back the PHANTOM army for good.

Zappo Land, the elephant approved amusement park

Now how difficult is the game? I found Tembo the Badass Elephant to have a good difficulty curve from start to finish. Although I struggled with some earlier stages at first, going back for 100% completion later on, it was easy to see the benefit that came from using Tembo's moves in steadily trickier situations. I found most of the boss fights to be decently difficult and fulfilling to beat, and I did feel some sense of accomplishment when delivering the final attack to the last boss. I don't know how challenging this game would be for those skilled with this genre, but overall, I think that most people will be satisfied.

The game does have one major flaw though, and that's the fact that the game is too short. Essentially reaching 100% completion, I've only spent around 10 hours with the game. That's ten hours with playing, dying, even getting game over a few times and starting long stages over, replaying upwards of two or three times to collect everything, etc.. It is not a long experience even for those like me who fail more often than not with this genre. I was especially a fan of the Greenville Peaks stages and would have loved to see and play more. For the trophy/achievement hunters out there, the only somewhat lengthy challenge would be collecting 99 lives, as even failing to die start to finish would not yield that many lives.

The sweet, sweet taste of peanut-y salt covered victory

Overall, Tembo the Badass Elephant is a fun adventure with good moves that just feels too short. The game is only $15 though, and I think that you will definitely feel satisfied with the experience at that price. I enjoyed the game start to finish, and I have no trouble recommending it.
+ Nice stage design
+ Diverse moves for Tembo keep the experience interesting
+ Fun boss battles
- A lack of control mapping for various moves
- The game is too short
8 Presentation
The game looks good, the story is minimal but presented in a simple yet delightful way, and the stage and enemy design are both a treat.
8 Gameplay
Tembo's varied moves and use of water, as well as various elements in each stage, makes for a fun experience. The various enemy types allows for experimentation to find the best and most enjoyable ways to win. Except for my gripe regarding the control scheme, I found the experience to feel fun start to finish.
6 Lasting Appeal
Except for one time consuming trophy/achievement, you will be able to 100% this game relatively quickly in every way. There is a high score table for each stage for those that want to try to top it, but for those who aren't high score hunters, there isn't anything to come back to after clearing every stage at 100% completion.
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
I did like the game, and were it longer, I would have no trouble rating it higher. The short experience is the one thing that I feel holds the game back, but the overall experience is certainly worthy of a play through. I find it easy to recommend this title.

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