Tembo the Badass Elephant is a 2D action platformer where a city has been invaded by a bunch of dudes that really love the color purple that call themselves Phantom and to respond to this threat the National Guard send in one badass elephant as their first and last line of defense. As you can no doubt tell from that sentence this game is very tongue in cheek and has very little story to the point that I had to look at the store page to describe what is going on. Your job as a badass elephant is to go across the level rescuing civilians and killing every enemy in sight and doing both is must as killing an enemy or rescuing a civilian grants you some Phantom Points which are required to progress through the missions. You can miss a few but the point threshold needed to get past is pretty high and leaves little room for error. Each level has a set amount of points they give you so if you scored 240 the first time around and replay it later on and score 250, you will receive 10 points. It just feels like a really unneeded mechanic designed to artificially lengthen the game in the least fun possible way. Imagine having to collect around 90% of the rings in each Sonic the Hedgehog level and you’ll get the gist of why it hampers the fun.
If you are wondering why I mentioned Sonic of all things, well Tembo the Badass Elephant is very similar. From the spin dash attack to the angry looking animal protagonist it would not surprise me if the development for this started off as another Sonic title. The key differences here are that the elephant in this game moves far slower and is able to shoot water from its trunk. Water shot from your trunk can be used for a variety of things such as growing some platforms, short circuiting electronics and using it to spin objects such as valves. Your water supply is limited however and you can restock by drinking from a water supply or finding some scattered water bottles. Water supplies are always placed near the object you need to spray so it is never necessary to backtrack due to needing more water. I wouldn’t call them puzzles but they are nice additions that break up the usual platforming and fighting. Fighting is more dangerous than you may think considering that you weigh several tons and move with the graze of a ballerina. You can only take five hits and it doesn’t matter if the damage comes from being blasted in the face by a tank or punched by a tiny human as everything causes you the same amount of damage. In order to recover some health you need to find food crates though they are few and far between so you’ll be wanting to take things more cautiously instead of going in trunks blazing like a badass elephant.
Your means of disposing of your foes are by uppercutting with your trunk, slide kicks and dashing towards them. Whatever you chose it is always great fun seeing human enemies ragdoll and land many feet away. My favorite mean of dealing with them is to simply jump on top of them leaving nothing but a satisfying splat. There is no blood in this game and it is all done in a cartoonish fashion in case that sounded a tad too violent and you were considering buying it for a child. Humans can also come at you with mechs, helicopters or tanks and pose a far greater danger to you than those on foot. Seeing an elephant fight a giant mech is a pretty awesome sight and most non boss enemies go down in three or less well placed blows. They all have different ways of being dealt with such as tanks shooting a horizontal round at you which can very easily be dodged by ducking and mechs only being susceptible to damage from behind. Once you defeat a vehicle the soldier will fly out from the explosion and you must kill him to get more of the previously mentioned Phantom Points. Scattered around levels are giant purple crates or purple floating TV sets, basically anything that is purple you will want to go out of your way to destroy. Luckily it is a ton of fun to destroy things you don’t even have to such as trees, houses or platforms just to see the way everything scatters around the screen by the force of a charging elephant.
Bowling balls are found in some levels and are very useful for flinging at enemies and destroying things you can’t reach. Also found in levels are secrets which contain hidden captive humans. While the humans themselves hold no value to you, rescuing one gets you 10 points and you will be needing every point you can get. Once rescued the humans climb on your back and try to hold on as you run and jump around which is pretty amusing. Jumping is nothing special, the only thing different from other platformers is that the elephant can perform a flutterjump to keep himself floating in the air for a few seconds. Jumping and attacking can be a pain at times as timing your attack a second to soon before reaching the ground will cause you to use your spin dash which leaves you wide open to attack for a few seconds. This game is not easy and the checkpoints are far and few between making death feel really substantial. They are not far enough to become unfair but boy will it sting when the checkpoint is in sight and you mess up at the last second. This game really nailed the difficulty in my opinion since it is not easy enough to be boring and not hard enough to be infuriating.
Tembo the Badass Elephant uses a lives system and you will receive lives after collecting enough peanuts to make a jar of peanut butter. Little details like these just make the game feel really charming and there is a lot of creativity in the backgrounds of the levels themselves as well. There are 18 levels in total but 4 of them feature nothing but a boss fight. That’s not to say bosses aren’t enjoyable but it is a pretty short game that took me 4 hours to complete according to Steam and I did spend some time away from keyboard so I’d wager it was more around 3 and a half hours. There is no real reason to replay the game other than to have fun so I can see that being a turn off for some. Continuing on the subject of the bosses they are always much larger than you and they will not go down easily. Funnily enough the first boss fight is actually the hardest in the whole game and caused me far more grief than any other. After beating a boss you will be shown a few comic book pages in a cutscene detailing what happens next and how you escaped. They look nice and are very goofy though they don’t really explain anything, being there mostly for comedic effect such as escaping by flying out of the base using a parachute made of birds. The music is pretty well done and features your typical action sounding array of tracks as well as a few party tracks for when the enemy decides to get their groove on.
The game does not support resolutions higher than 1080p unfortunately, making the image look slightly blurry for anyone running a higher resolution monitor or TV. I have no real other complaints other than the spin dash and at times being unable to tell which path to take causing you to be unable to return if you picked the wrong one making you lose out on a ton of points which you will really need. Each of the 18 levels felt quite different from one another and this seems to be a cause of quality over quantity. This is a very short game and I don’t see myself replaying it anytime soon either but I had tons of fun playing it. It does have leaderboards so if you are into competing for time and scores you can get more playtime out of it. What it ultimately comes down to is how much you, the reader value the amount of time spent playing to the cost of the game. If you ever catch this game on sale it becomes a much easier recommendation as it is a fun little game that any fan of Action Platformers will likely enjoy.