Last week, SEGA announced Tembo the Badass Elephant, a new title being made in collaboration with Game Freak, the company behind Pokemon and HarmoKnight, due for release sometime later this year.
In less than 24 hours after its online announcement, SEGA already had a playable build of the game on show at EGX Rezzed in London, where we go to get a hands-on demo of the new title, in the game’s first publicly playable appearance.
In this comic-styled sidescroller, you play as Tembo, who needs to complete missions in different locations to defeat enemies and rescue civilians. Being such a ‘badass elephant’, Tembo has lots of different moves at his disposal to get through any situation. He can dash, slide, uppercut, ground pound, jump-dash and even spray water from his trunk to solve mini puzzles or get past obstacles. This could include situations like spraying water on plant buds to grow flower platforms for you to jump on, or dashing trough a support beam in a building to bring down the floor above where several enemies are hanging out.
When controlling Tembo, the you can really feel the ‘weight’ of the character in how he moves and controls, from the steady, trundling walk to the exaggerated movements when jumping and landing. There’s even a slowdown effect when you’re smashing through buildings, obstacles and enemies to emphases this as well.
Each of the levels I played contained loads of enemies to try my various attacks on, like the regular cannon fodder henchmen, airborne soldiers, tanks and flamethrower wielding goons, which gave a fair amount of variety in how you can get around each one’s attacks and take them out. The level design seemed to be quite interesting, incorporating outdoor areas and buildings as well as diverging paths to get extra collectibles like trapped civilians or more peanuts.
After playing for a bit, the game reminded me of the Donkey Kong Country games back on the SNES, which were also great side-scrolling platformers were you’d use the characters’ unique abilities to get through the levels. Even the peanuts you collect in Tembo reminded me of DKC’s bananas, to the point where I thought they even sounded similar when you collect them.
Even though the build that SEGA brought along was apparently an early version of the game, it seemed to play very well, with tight, responsive controls and a varied range of moves for Tembo to use in the levels. The graphics also looked pretty good, especially the cartoony 2d art and way the 3D obstacles explode into dozens of pieces when you smash through them. If the rest of the game continues at this pace it could be a really fun game to play when it comes out later this year.