Side-scrolling beat-em-up’s have a simplicity to them, a core concept so central to their identity and success that when it doesn’t land as you might expect it to, it can render an otherwise decent game dull and joyless. Tunche, unfortunately, is one such game as it knows exactly how to entertain, but strips out the fun and hides it behind grinding and upgrades, giving you RSI and a terrible first impression in the process.
A looker if ever you’ve seen one, Tunche’s hand-drawn animation entices with an almost Disney-like artisan approach, its detailed animation giving you hope for what’s to come, only for the aesthetics and design to fall flat, with its levels basic and a soundtrack that begs to be ignored. This then contributes to the game’s mediocre start as you are forced into earning currency to purchase moves and attack/health upgrades – to make the action even remotely fun – in sections of a level and with identical enemies that repeat over and over.
These rogue-lite elements grind my goat as crowds of very similar enemies can only be defeated one way efficiently – unless you want your hands to fall off. Attacking enemies from behind inflicts critical damage so you aim to shepherd them into a crowd, dash behind them and then launch into repeating combos until they fall backwards, dash behind them again and rinse and repeat. Levels of increasing difficulty and the occasional boss do little to stem the tide of tedium, in fact the former does the opposite in crowding yet more enemies on the screen, which makes me think that unless this is played co-op, there’s actually not much reason to jump-in to the rather tepid water.
Each of the 5 upgradeable characters have their own physical and magic attacks, but other than a special move, critical attacks are the only real way forward, limiting the experience and how much fun you can have with it.
In a way this reminds me a little of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles compilation that is due to be released shortly, in that you progress through (arcade) beat ’em up levels with similar enemies and repetitive attacks, but there are so many little details in the TMNT games that make such a big difference overall. In TMNT: Turtles in Time for example, there is level and enemy interaction as swinging an enemy side to side can hit into objects or other enemies.
None of the enemies and their attacks affect each other in Tunche, even the suicidal animals that explode when they get close to you don’t affect the other enemies. TMNT also has great level variety with a different audio track for each, which would imbue each level with a personality of its own to the point where you could recognize them based on audio alone. Tunche has no such variety, and other than the bosses, I could never quite be sure how far I had progressed as every section is essentially the same.
The upgrade system is also quite convoluted with its numerous currencies and types of abilities. Upgrades come in the form of two types – permanent and temporary, but the benefits of the two are dramatically different. Permanent ones are of huge help and can actually make the game somewhat enjoyable, but temporary ones are almost pointless as you can plow currency into them only to never actually receive them through the random spawns at the end of each area.
You also accrue a currency from the very beginning that has no explanation as to what it’s for until the end of the first stage, which is about as useful as the game’s talking Llama.
Not only is there no guarantee that you’ll ever see the benefit of the temporary upgrade, but for some reason you are often required to achieve an A grade in the upcoming level for it even to kick in. This is much easier said than done, and to me is slightly counterintuitive as if you have already grinded enough to defeat the level that easily, you don’t exactly need more help.
Other than the restrictive upgrades, there’s also an issue with long loading times, providing you with surprisingly long wait from the base camp, but funnily enough what would normally be a cause for concern in any other game, in this case actually gives your hands a break from cramp-inducing dash-hit-dash-hit gameplay, and I actually consider it somewhat of a benefit.
Thankfully single-player is not the only way to play the game though as up to 4-player co-op is really where the game allows itself to shine, the aesthetically pleasing animation compounding its benefits as the screen fills with action. Sadly, this is just local co-op however and there are no online capabilities.
Tunche is a beat ’em up that goes in a little too strong on its rogue-lite elements, unnecessarily forcing standard features behind a grind of unlockables and making the action overly repetitive. With its formula relying so heavily on upgrades, instead of more enjoyable arcade action, it takes too long for the stunted gameplay to reveal its potential – unless you have someone else to play with.