TUNIC by TUNIC Team
Plenty of games promise a return to the classics. A simple browse of any online storefront will reveal no end of 8-bit games designed to transport 30 and 40-somethings to the days of their youth. However, while many of these games are successful (and genuinely fun), few of them are able to capture the spirit of discovery that came along with playing something like the original The Legend of Zelda for the first time.
In an ironic twist, TUNIC makes no such promises of nostalgia-bait. And yet it captures what’s great about those old games better than anyone else.
Legend of a Banished Man
TUNIC wastes no time in getting you into the experience. As an adorable fox who awakens on the shore of a mysterious island, your initial goal is simply to explore. There are items to collect, enemies to fight, upgrades to spend, blocked-off areas to speculate how to reach, the gang’s all here. However, the few bits of plot you’re given soon reveal a greater mystery at play, and TUNIC makes solving that mystery just as captivating as the exploration.
In a frankly genius twist, some of the game’s main collectibles are fragments of its own instruction manual. While these initially give basic information like your controls, a map, and some small tips, it soon becomes clear that there are plenty of secrets within these pages. You’ll frequently come back to it as you explore the land, and some of its eventual reveals will outright change how you’ve perceived the world, in ways that I dare not spoil here.
TUNIC also sports plenty of puzzles to solve. While many of these unfold in very Zelda-like fashion, others require thinking outside the box to a level that reminded me of Fez‘s biggest mind-benders. It’s genuinely impressive how clever this game can be.
Legends Never Die
It certainly doesn’t hurt either that TUNIC is just a charming experience from start to finish. The game’s deceptively simple art design features plenty of impressive surprises itself. I frequently found myself going “HOW was this made by such a small team?!” I also can’t get over the adorable pencil art used throughout the manual. Oh, and not to be outdone, TUNIC’s music is also just as whimsical and delightful.
If I had a gripe to make about the game, it’s that some of the later hidden puzzles are a bit too “clever” for their own good. While the majority were fun brain-teasers, there were a few that barely felt worth the reward. I would also caution people looking at this game and expecting a light, breezy experience, as TUNIC’s combat can be quite challenging, especially bosses.
TUNIC serves as a reminder of what made the adventure games of the past as compelling as they were. At the same time, its innovations on the formula put a lot of modern designs to shame. It’s an adventure game by people who love adventure games, for people who love adventure games, and that love carries through to every single part of the experience.
TUNIC is available via the Nintendo Store, Microsoft Xbox Store, GOG, and Steam.
Watch the trailer for TUNIC below: