A Path Well Worn Out
I remember back in the day when Castle Crashers came out and it re-introduced me to my love of the beat ‘em up. I’ve lost plenty of quarters even further back, supplying as many lives as I could run through to beat an arcade’s campaign in one after-dinner romp at whichever restaurant my family was at. This genre has a lot of good memories, so when I see a new title I immediately get excited. Come on Tunche, don’t fail me now.
Deep in the heart of the Amazon lies a troubling foe, as monsters of all kinds have ravaged the innards of the bustling forest and have terrorized its inhabitants. Warriors from all flocks have tried to seek the source of terror, but none have made it deep enough to face it. Many have been captured or have gone missing, leaving five tribesmen and women (and one Hat-wearing kid) to dive into the source of the terror and eradicate the evil within, restoring order to the forest that they call home.
While Tunche off the bat isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel with beat ‘em ups or roguelikes, it tries to blend the two well enough for a fun and efficient package. Character controls are simple: buttons for melee and ranged with a launcher for additional combos to start. Ranged attacks use a separate Mana bar that is refilled primarily with melee hits, allowing for synergistic combat. Each character takes a specific style into the jungle, with Pancho being a heavy hitter, Rumi utilizing mana-based attacks, and Hat Kid smug dancing.
The Amazon is cut into four different areas with multiple “stages” to do battle in before facing the area’s big boss and trudging forward. If your HP hits zero it’s all the way back to the beginning with no checkpoints. But every run allows your character to get stronger with the various collectables found in each level. XP upgrades your character and unlocks new combos, Essence upgrades Cores found in the jungle, and Gold allows you to grab run-specific items as well as grabbing cores before each run.
When you’re venturing through the Amazon, you may notice the same thing I did at first, that man: this game is pretty. Tunche boasts hand-drawn graphics and it pops with a colorful vibrancy that remains soft and enjoyable to look at in motion. Tunche runs super smooth and I never ran into any hiccups while playing, which is crucial in a beat ’em up and every moment matters. The bosses all look super cool and provide a neat range of attacks that are again, super cool to look at. It was a real treat seeing these for the first time. Especially Boss #3. So dope.
But in terms of how much I enjoyed the game, well, your mileage may vary. The inclusion of roguelite elements is always a neat mechanic for added longevity, but the game has to be worth the grind in multiple aspects for it to stick. And after going through a few characters and beating the game with one, I can say that for how much is unlockable with what I’ve been given to play, I don’t have much incentive to complete this game fully.
Tunche has a weird problem of being too easy yet artificially too hard. Characters have simple button mechanics that make it an easy pick-up-and-play, especially with up to four players that can have a go at each run. But all characters are woefully underpowered to start your journey: not that a big deal since Tunche provides a ton of unlockables to find (samples of each enemy and boss, storyboard-like past plots for each character, a whole camp of people trapped in the Amazon, etc.), as well as bolstering your character to bigger and better stats with each run. The problem is that these unlockables are completely at random, more notably the plot for all characters. Since Tunche’s stages are picked by the provided icon above the selected area, showing what players will unlock when they complete the room, these rooms are cycled randomly with a chance that no big collectables will unlock. The first three runs I had with Pancho gave me none of his story bits, which I later found out is unlocked in a certain stage: if you don’t get the proc on stage 3 or 4, you’ll have to play the whole game over again in hopes you get it. Kinda sucks if you’re curious about the character and just roll your imaginary dice badly.
Tunche also expects a loss after each new stage, with each boss defeat giving a substantial upgrade to your character once you’re back at camp. I clutched Bosses 2 and 3 in one run and was able to upgrade my character to a point where the rest of my runs were exponentially easy. There’s a super move for each character, but I couldn’t tell you Pancho’s because I was so powerful with normal attacks it was never needed. After beating the final boss, I was left with a ton of things to unlock for most characters and I was still missing parts 3 and 4 to Pancho’s story after my 6th run. Tunche then throws it’s hardest problem directly in the face of New Game+ players: there isn’t one.
If you’ve beaten the story you can go back into the Amazon and run the gauntlet again, blindly rolling for the things you need, but there’s no challenging incentive to return other than a curiosity of the game world and a juvenile need to punch down at your smaller foes. With the combat scarcely hiding numerous infinite combos to whittle down any foe with ease and the numerous power-ups that raise your character’s efficiency above the trees, the combat becomes stale very quickly, especially if the return to the Amazon to check boxes doesn’t get checked after several runs.
Even bringing friends along for the ride doesn’t help as much as it should. We were only able to find one story bit for our three characters in the 4-5 runs we had, and the amount of enemies on the screen borders on the ridiculous. You can get lost really easily on screen where we got defeated several times but couldn’t tell you as to what did us in. If all our characters were more upgraded we probably could have fared better, but for bringing in friends for a plug-in-play, getting blasted with a deluge of enemies did not give the best impression.
So it puts me in a weird situation: I want to recommend Tunche for the beautifully drawn art and its smooth and simplistic combat. But I can’t recommend Tunche for it’s artificial inflation of a game that just does not feel finished. Putting so much to unlock behind the luck of the draw loses its luster when most of the game is seen within an hour or two. Having extra modes, harder difficulties, anything to give a different angle to what was shown would’ve done wonders to have me keep playing and buy-in on everything to see in the jungle. But with the one trail available to be retread ad nauseum, it’s not worth buying in.
A Steam code was independently purchased for review.