Tunche (PC) - ReviewPaul Broussard , posted on 23 November 2021 / 1,039 Views
Beat-em-ups are something of a lost art in this day and age. Games like Final Fight and Streets of Rage are becoming less prevalent, perhaps due to a mixture of graphics and technology improving and flogging impressionable young children to spend more money at arcades becoming less feasible. But they’re not totally gone yet, and every so often a new title hops in to try to “beat em up.”
Which brings us to Tunche, or as you might know it, that one game with the girl from A Hat in Time. Which initially felt like an odd inclusion to me; Hat Kid certainly doesn’t fit in with the Amazonian theme of the title, nor does she seem like the type of character to naturally fit into a brawler. But hey, if Shin Megami Tensei can get away with including Dante as a guest character in a JRPG, then perhaps Hat Kid isn’t too far out of place.
Speaking of Dante, the core gameplay takes some inspiration from Devil May Cry of all things. It functions as a standard brawler for the most part, not too dissimilar to the prominent arcade beat-em-ups of the 90s. The five playable characters all have standard melee attacks and a projectile attack that uses magic, and must progress through a series of rooms, fighting through increasingly large waves of baddies. So far, so brawler. The interesting twist is that it also possesses a DMC-esque style meter, where consistently varying up your attacks and avoiding taking damage raises your style level.
What a style meter system like this demands, however, is that the player be given a variety of moves to experiment with, which brings us to the playable characters themselves. Each character has access to a small pool of standard melee combos, a limited use magic attack (usually a projectile of some sort), and a screen-clearing super move. Movesets can be expanded by purchasing new attacks in-between levels. Each character also possesses a dash and an air dash, useful for getting out of harm’s way.
While the broad strokes are all in place, Tunche trips over itself when it comes to the combat in a couple of places. One notable problem is that there just aren’t that many moves per character. Even when you’ve fully unlocked the entire skill tree, your pool of attacks to draw from is pretty limited. This is especially confusing given the inclusion of a style meter ostensibly designed to reward players for using lots of different moves; it feels very out of place in a game where you have about four different combo strings per character.
But there are plenty of good games without expansive combat systems. Even simplistic combat can be enjoyable as long as it's fast and responsive. Unfortunately, this is where Tunche makes its biggest misstep; the one that sends it tumbling down the stairs and to the emergency room with a fractured pelvis. Tunche’s combat is slow - really slow. Not slow as in the characters take a long time to move (although there is certainly some of that, as the delay between pressing dash and the character actually dashing is frankly absurd), but slow as in recovery time. There’s a sizable delay between finishing an attack string and being able to attack again, meaning that combat feels clunky and a bit like you’re fighting underwater.
This also isn’t helped by the rather large health pool that most enemies have, which combined with the rather small number of moves and stiff feeling combat, turns the fighting into a drag. You just wind up wailing on most enemies, then dodging the occasional attack that comes in, before getting to mash on them some more.
One area that is thankfully a lot better are the boss fights, which occur at the end of every “level” after the game runs out of regular boring enemies to throw at you. These are actually pretty creatively designed and decently challenging, too; you have to spend some time learning attack patterns and figuring out how to dodge attacks while being able to get your own hits in. They’re fun to figure out and fight over the course of a few attempts, which makes the next bit such a kick in the teeth.
If the pace of the combat was the misstep that put Tunche in the hospital, the way that death is handled is the doctor fumbling the scalpel and accidentally sawing an arm off. Slow, dull combat could potentially be forgiven if it only had to be done once. But Tunche is of an advanced mindset, theorizing that if you smash your head against a wall consistently, maybe you’ll lose all feeling of pain and come to start enjoying it. Put simply, if you die, you have to start the entire stage over again from the very get go. This might not sound particularly egregious at first, but picture this: spending a solid fifteen minutes chipping away at spongey enemies to finally reach a boss who kills you with an attack that takes off 40% of your health in one hit, and then having to redo that entire fifteen minutes of boring combat just to get back to the boss and have another shot. What I’m trying to get across is that a boss that takes you 3-4 attempts to kill can easily mean having to spend a combined hour or so of time just trying to work your way back to them again.
I want to stress that this isn’t an issue with the difficulty of the bosses; it’s the design of the game. I don’t have a problem with dying to bosses. I don’t mind bosses that mercilessly destroy me (at least, so long as they buy me dinner first). I don’t even really mind learning bosses that largely work on trial and error, so long as I get to jump right back in and try again. But making me sit through another 15-20 minutes of the same combat that I already played just to take another crack at the boss is a faux pas on a par with announcing a public reading of a Winnie the Pooh book in mainland China.
If reading this review has made you realize just how desperately you need this game, then you’ll be pleased to hear that the aesthetic and sound design is a solid meh. It looks and sounds ok, which, to its credit, is vastly superior to the actual experience of playing it. The story is also hardly worth mentioning; there’s a big monster that’s shown up in the Amazon rainforest and the four original characters want to stop it from unleashing chaos, while Hat Kid spends the game communicating like a grandparent who just discovered emotes on their phone.
The best thing I can say about Tunche is that it’s only the second worst thing involving poorly-drawn depictions of cartoon monkeys to come out of 2021. The core combat is slow and lacks variety, the story and artistic elements of the game don’t add much, and the mission design makes this an experience that's about as enjoyable as being thrown into the pathway of an oncoming 18 wheeler. And at least with the latter I have a good excuse to get off work afterwards.
This review is based on a digital copy of Tunche for the PC
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