What is that? An isometric Zelda with a foxy hero.
Expect to pay $30/£25
Developer Team Tunic
Reviewed on Intel Core i7-11700K, GeForce RTX 3070, 16GB RAM
Link Official site
On the surface, Tunic’s delightful art style and charming tone bears a striking resemblance to The Legend of Zelda series. But beneath its cheerfully disarming exterior lies a game meant to test your resolve. The seemingly warm and welcoming world of Tunic is full of enemies who are only too willing to knock you out. Prepare to die. Many.
Beyond an abrupt opening that sees our fox friend wash up on a beach, there’s little narrative. And what little plot Tunic has is deliberately vague. The larger mystery of this world is a nice addition to the game rather than a compelling reason to play. Just delving into its fascinating surroundings, battling with its unsavory inhabitants, and discovering its many layers is a compelling story all its own. This beautifully constructed isometric world is simply joyful to explore. The game’s overworld and many dungeons offer complex and varied environments. Some are filled with dangerous obstacles, such as the greedy quarry goop, while others offer an easier search for treasure, shortcuts, and a way forward.
Like Metroidvania, you’ll need the right tools and abilities to reach certain areas. Many locations in the game can be explored directly from the beach, but the difficulty or lack of equipment prevents you from straying too far from the path intended by the game. For example, you have access to the Dark Tomb from the start, but good chance to tackle its skeletons and spike pits without finding the lantern first. I enjoyed revisiting areas with an expanded inventory that allowed me to claim previously unreachable treasures.
While the green outfit and simple sword and shield may make Tunic’s anthropomorphic fox look like a fluffy red link, many of the game’s mechanics are straight out of the Souls series. Strange statues provide a place to replenish your health and magic potions, but they also cause enemies to respawn. You drop your gold when you die and to recover your lost wealth you must return to where you fell. Interacting with your Fallen Riches also produces an area of effect attack that damages enemies and knocks them back, sometimes making a tactical kill your best option. The prospect of losing gold adds a surprising level of tension, as you need a massive amount of cash to not only buy items, but also to level up. And leveling up makes a big difference in your ability to stay alive in Tunic, with each leveling up feeling like it really adds some punch to our foxy hero.
There’s a significant sense of progression as you expand your arsenal to include bombs and magic. But like everything else has limited uses, most of the time you rely on your trusty sword to defeat the enemies of the game. Battles require careful timing of your swings and conscious use of your stamina as you dodge between strikes. enemies, looking for the opportune moment to attack. Enemies aren’t lenient with the sweet boy just because he’s adorable. They are more than willing to kick his tail to the last checkpoint. Each of Tunic’s enemy types are well-designed, and there’s nice variation throughout. Fast, nimble crocodiles do massive damage if they grab you in their jaws, while fairies – floating pieces of wall – use an explosion ability that freezes you in place.
In terms of combat, however, the real highlight is the boss fights. Every encounter is a spectacle, though you don’t have much time to appreciate the artistry as you dodge powerful slam attacks and flee from devastating lasers. You’ll be screaming things that don’t suit Tunic’s innocent tone when those fearsome enemies defeat you for the umpteenth time. They require patience, but they’re also extremely enjoyable to face – overcoming each of them feels like a feat.
Some games go to great lengths to explain the ins and outs of their mechanics before letting you roam freely through their worlds, that’s not the case with Tunic. The most important lesson you learn – probably after your little fox spends a lot of desperately wasted time – is that the game actually offers inspired guidance, having you collect pages from an instruction manual at the Ancient. While the early pieces can easily be brushed aside, you quickly learn their importance. If you’re not sure where to go next or need advice on how a particular mechanism works, it’s all there in these beautifully designed pages if you look closely enough. The manual itself looks like a puzzle, its enigmatic design a clever way to unravel the inner workings of the game. This makes it more engaging to unpack than a traditional tutorial.
Tunic’s troubles are, thankfully, as small as its fuzzy main character. All of your offensive abilities can only be mapped to three buttons, which is fine at first but rather limited when you want to use a range of consumable items in battle alongside your sword and magic. Sometimes when transitioning between areas, isometric levels can take much longer to load than expected for a game of this nature. Enemies also sporadically traverse the environment, and flying enemies often recoil just out of range of your sword swings, making them incredibly irritating until you have access to ranged magic attacks.
Although inspired by many big names in the game, Tunic has a unique character and a sense of wonder all its own. Its simple, colorful graphic styles and emphasis on old-school fun make for an undeniably captivating experience. At the same time, the contrasting challenge it presents adds an extra level of immersion and satisfaction that makes this enchanting adventure one you won’t soon forget.