This game is going to be hard to review, basically the strength of the game only remains a strength less I say and what makes it so good. I guess the best way to approach it is how it displays on its surface. A fox protagonist in a green tunic raises his sword and blue shield to go on an adventure. Many would instantly link this iconography to the Zelda franchise.
The game may certainly look like Zelda, but it’s important to know that all
by Zelda Link outputs are created equal. So the best way to describe this is that it’s a Zelda-like game, also known as a “Hero’s Adventure” game, which is very similar to the franchise before it focused on a heavy storytelling.
Like Zelda, but not only Zelda
For those unfamiliar with the Zelda series, this may be difficult to explain, but in short, starting with Zelda’s adventure in the Super Nintendo with Link to the Past, the game has become much more story-driven than character-driven. ‘exploration. The exception to this is the series’ last major venture, Breath of the Wild. Like a breath of fresh air, the game’s focus on exploration has been exceptionally well received since Nintendo broke free from the narrative ties the series was held in for previous titles.
The tunic, with that in mind, looks a lot like those early Zelda games with a modern aesthetic. He throws you into the world and while he can guide you in his own way, he doesn’t stop to tell you the story. You have to go out and piece it together yourself.
If this sounds interesting to you, stop here and play it. If you’re younger, I’d say this is the closest feeling you’ll get to playing an old console cartridge game in the pre-internet days. I will try to avoid spoilers in the sections below, but the blinder you are, the better in this game. Discovering the game from its universe is the strength of the game.
From now on, there will be very light spoilers, so don’t read on if you want to go completely blind. I think I owe it to the game not to dive too deep into the article, so most of the secrets and mechanics are still up to you to discover.
A flight of fights
Did I say Death’s Door was hard? The bosses in this game are a bit tougher. In fact, since you can actually heal and I’m still dead a bit, they’re much harder. You should definitely try using different skills and items to learn weaknesses. Some must keep their distance, others must face them.
The boss difficulty spike reminded me a bit of FIST: Forged in Shadow Torch.
Many people who have reviewed Tunic have reviewed the difficult combat and “soullike” aspects, such as healing flasks and campfire save points. I like how save points cause enemies to respawn when you use them, creating a way to dampen the ability to save scum after clearing resistance. It gives each save point a more defined purpose without toning down the challenge. Plus, it makes narrative sense, for reasons I won’t go into.
You can only hold three items and your shield, so you have to be careful as switching items won’t pause the game, so go into fights planning what tools you’ll use before engaging, or you might put you in a bad position.
The game keeps things fresh and introduces new mechanics and situations throughout the game. From upgrades to your six attributes that you can unlock with a combination of money and items found in the world, to a misty spirit poison that can sap your maximum HP with a haunting scream and UI-invading blur.
And like this creeping poison, as you delve deeper into this world, you may find that the soft and beautiful world has dark and frightening moments beneath the surface. Death is no escape from this fox’s fate. But maybe there is another way.
Secrets and mysteries
This game is in a weird way a time capsule that invokes the spirit of mystery and adventure that those of us who jumped into those game carts at the start of the game would find ourselves in. What surprises would this game bring us? Would we be able to make interesting discoveries of secrets to pass on this wisdom to our friends?
Before we had the internet to help us in times of need, we had a community of our peers to discuss what we found. Did you find that warp zone at the end of 1-2 in Super Mario Bros? There is a secret if you bomb this bush in this screen.
In this more modern age of gaming, we have two things that have stood in the way of that sense of wonder and mystery in gaming. The first is that game designers seem to lack the courage to put puzzles and secrets deep for fear of frustrating players, second, the internet is fast enough to solve and share these secrets as soon as they are discovered. Rarely does a game present a guide to unlocking its game secrets without just giving you the answers directly, or just letting the internet do it for you. In Chicory, a game focused on puzzles rather than combat, I remember your father-guide sometimes saying that you should use the internet if you need more details. I never had to, but it was still weird that the game itself would suggest it.
The developers of Tunic however have found a way to split this difference with beautiful craftsmanship.
I won’t go into how they do this, but I will say that if you like puzzles you’ll love this game. It has the biggest puzzles I’ve seen in games, easily surpassing Braid in being difficult but not unnecessarily opaque. It’s been so long since a game flexed my brain muscles in a way that made me feel like I was actually thinking. And when you start to discover these things and to solve them, you start to feel like a madman who draws lines, makes connections, but it works, there are secrets in this world.
Even in that, I have said too much. It’s just a game of souls, go ahead and get a gud.
I’ll end on this though, you know you’ve crafted a wonderful puzzle when the elation the player felt when the game rang that they had solved it outweighs the catharsis they felt while beating the bosses tough and the battle gauntlets they’ve pushed before. My hope is that instead of more games looking more like souls in the future, more games set up puzzles that look more like tunics in the future.
Unfortunately, puzzle solving might not be the most entertaining part of streaming, as people get destroyed by critters on camera. But maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised one more day.