So, this is an indie game that doesn’t focus on graphics, but instead a hybrid of a couple classic muses. This is namely Zelda and Souls games. Of course, mimicry is the sincerest form of flattery. So does TUNIC pull off a new, creative hybrid, or is it just another indie game trying to appeal to nostalgia with a cutesy coat of paint?
…the exploration is rather invigorating.
The classic influence is immediately noticeable using an isometric camera angle and a focus on open-ended exploration with very little to go on. And rest assured, there is a LOT of exploration and puzzle solving. We’re not quite talking giving Zelda a run for its money, but it definitely expects you to see and think. Then, in an effort to combine with the Souls genre, you have combat that is designed to punish you for erratic hack-and-slash tendencies. Unfortunately, there are noticeable flaws in the combat: namely that handling multiple targets is tedious, and that the parry is so slow that it often requires pre-empting an attack and I quickly decided it was barely worth using. In addition, there seemed to be a slight input delay in blocking and dodging which sometimes resulted in taking hits just moments after having hit the button. But then, between all this combat we’re back to more exploration, and there’s where the solace is. While the combat may be overall subpar, the exploration is rather invigorating. Taking after the Souls and early Zelda formats for exploration turns the entire world into a maze, and it tickled my nostalgia naughty bits just enough to remind of the “good ol’ days”. Funnily enough, most of the puzzles could be solved by a toddler, sometimes simply requiring the “check everywhere” method, but then the game really turns up the puzzle-solving in the endgame which segues into the next section.
…didn’t expect the endgame to ride my noggin on a toboggan…
The game makes it pretty clear you didn’t quite do things right when the first ending says, “Game Over” but about 15 hours in you hit the real ending. And here’s where it’s interesting: the puzzles to get that real ending are actually worth it. They begin really baking your noodle requiring a high level of observation skills. In fact, when I finally got to the door leading me to the final piece I needed, I thought I had it figured out…, but an hour later I turned to Google to see I had made a simple interpretation error. Not too shabby: I didn’t expect the endgame to ride my noggin on a toboggan the way it did. Bravo for a budget indie game, bravo (except the part where once I got the real ending, it forced me into a new game instead of letting me continue collecting).
…if you’re hoping for properly deep world lore, it’s simply not here.
Minimalist design is something that’s hard to pull off, and this game mostly manages to succeed. I say mostly because the foliage is oddly out of place with the rest of the aesthetics, but at no point did it feel like they were missing something. In fact, I found it a bit surprising: the lighting engine itself is a bit savvier than it looks. In addition, the sound design is absolutely top notch, and the music has a LOT of bass. If you’re a partial audiophile like me and you have the sound system for it, crank this game up for a shockingly good aural experience. But then we get to that whole classic muse thing again, which results in a bit of a misstep in storytelling. Much like older Zelda and Souls games, there isn’t much that explains the story. I even looked for more answers to certain aspects of the game, but unlike said classic games, there are things left unanswered and inexplicably so. I can respect minimalist stories the same as I can respect minimalist graphics, but if you’re hoping for properly deep world lore, it’s simply not here. Prepare to see things that shock you, and then leave you high and dry on the “why”.
…I did get a nice nostalgia tickle…
There’s nothing quite like developers creatively hybridizing classics for the modern era. However, it doesn’t necessarily go off without a hitch. The combat lacks finesse and polish in more ways than one, something that is far less acceptable in the modern era. Meanwhile the game’s exploration is a good bit of fun, and its endgame puzzles really turn up the heat. It also mostly manages a solid minimalist graphical appearance while assaulting your ears with top-notch sound design. Sadly, it then slips up in its minimalist story that is simply TOO little. But hey, I did get a nice nostalgia tickle, and I like that.