Developer: Isometricorp Games
Platforms: PC, XBO, XBSX
Version Played: PC
Tunic takes me back to when I first played Zelda on NES. I lived in Puerto Rico and only knew a few English words, so I didn't understand what most of the text in the game said. There was no Internet, and I didn't have a Nintendo Power subscription yet, so my brother and I figured everything out on our own. That's what Tunic is all about. It's a game about discovering things on your own by piecing together the little bits of info the game gives you.
Simply put, Tunic is Zelda AF. Zelda as fox, that is! It's an action adventure game that takes inspiration from everything from the original Zelda on NES to Skyward Sword. It has 5 multipart dungeons, boss battles, items, rupees, and a huge interconnected overworld to explore and cut grass in. The overworld also has sections that play like dungeons and spill over into the dungeons. It's that thing Skyward Sword tried to do but never got quite right.
Even though Tunic is constantly referencing Zelda, exploring this world feels different. You can't always use Zelda logic to overcome obstacles. Tunic has its own way of giving hints and guiding your eyes. Breakable walls aren't cracked, for example. While there are definitely switches to pull and keys to find, this game is more about paying attention to the way the environment is laid out and finding paths behind waterfalls, bushes, and in dark corners. Tunic has an isometric camera angle, which rarely changes, and you have very little control of, so you have to think about the environment in 3D. This mechanic of finding paths in places that aren't visible from your camera angle is used a lot, so it does become predictable very early on in the game. It got to the point where I checked every dark corner in every room of every dungeon because it just kept working. That’s just how the game is designed. Walking through these obscured paths is like fumbling around in the dark, so it's not the most fun mechanic, but these sections never last more than a few seconds, so they aren't too annoying. I wish there was more variety to the puzzles, though. An old fashioned block pushing puzzle now and then wouldn't hurt.
I don’t want to oversell it, but I think this game is amazing! I’ve played great Zelda-likes in the past, but I think this might be my favorite. It’s the way the game integrates the manual that I love so much. It’s not just a great Zelda-like, it’s also replicating that experience my brother and I had playing Zelda for the first time and discovering everything on our own. It’s 2 great experiences rolled into one. I’ve never played anything quite like this. I'd buy some kind of special edition with a physical manual in a heartbeat, and I hope there's more Tunic in the future.