Tembo the Badass Elephant Review – Don’t Call him Dumbo (PS4)

Ever heard of the developer Game Freak? They created this little franchise, called Pokémon. Well, they’ve decided to branch out of their comfort zone with their first PlayStation release since 1999’s obscure Click Medic. Their latest creation is the zany platformer Tembo the Badass Elephant. We’ve played it, and have our review for you below.

Not Your Average Elephant

Meet Tembo. He’s, as the game’s title suggests, pretty badass. This is an elephant that isn’t afraid to get dirty to get the job done. His mission is simple: destroy the nefarious PHANTOM military that has besieged the country. Tembo is normally a fairly docile elephant, but when called to action, he gets moving really quickly.

Tembo is a platformer first and foremost. You quickly learn that this elephant prefers to move quickly, like a certain hedgehog we all know. By holding the square button down, Tembo rushes forward in whatever direction he is facing, and new moves are available at your disposal while moving at this speed. Tembo’s moveset is familiar to any platforming veteran. He has a jump-hover activated by holding the X button. This is very reminiscent of Yoshi. Tembo also has a ground pound, again much like Yoshi. While there is no speed dash exactly like Sonic’s, holding square as mentioned previously does damage most enemies.

Combined with his super speed, Tembo also utilizes his long trunk as a water spout. Strewn throughout each level are pumps where Tembo can recharge his snout, as your water supply is limited after all. You use this water power throughout the game, including in boss fights. One handy tactic is to go charging with a dash attack while holding down R1 to fire the water – your elephant ball of rage instantly puts out any fire that it comes into contact to, keeping Tembo safe, at least until his water runs out.

Smooth Running

Graphically, Tembo runs very smoothly on the PS4. The art is full of vibrant color, and with each dash stylized letters follow Tembo’s actions, such as BADABADABADA or WOMF when he slams into a wall that he cannot break. Think of those old Batman television episodes and the text that would follow each hit of a bad guy, and you get the idea.

Naturally, the audio has been worked to make this game feel like an arcade game from the ’90s, and here Game Freak succeeds in making Tembo feel like it was ripped straight out of an SNK cabinet. There is a surprisingly epic sounding track in place for what amounts to an elephant wreaking havoc on an area. Each level begins with a defiant Tembo hell-bent on killing the evil-doers, and you can hear the environment react to his every stomp.

It’s been awhile since a 2D platforming game has come along that doesn’t take itself too seriously. If you happen to die during a level, for example, a short animation show up, with Tembo exhausted. He has reddened eyes, and appears to be done for. But what’s in his trunk? Why, a jar of peanut butter, naturally. Tembo pours the P.B. into his mouth, and Popeye-style becomes ready for the fight again!

Nobody Said It’d Be Easy

Tembo is a challenging platformer, but if you persevere, you can make it all the way through to the end. Boss battles do tend to be a bit confusing at first, however. Usually, it’s just a matter of figuring out the boss’ patterns, and attacking at the right time, or continuing an assault when your instincts tell you to back out. Veterans of the genre will generally make it through most levels with little fanfare, though killing every single enemy and rescuing every single civilian in each level will most likely require at least a couple playthroughs of each level. So there’s challenge and replayability for those that want to find it. My one gripe with Tembo the Badass Elephant is that it’s all over too soon, even if you go back and replay levels.

From out of nowhere, Game Freak has surprised everyone with a fun platformer that is not only inspired from the classics such as Sonic, Mario, Yoshi, and more, but manages to combine them in new and refreshing ways. Tembo has attitude, but unlike Sonic, he doesn’t speak. He can jump and stomp enemies, but unlike Mario, Tembo doesn’t die in a measly one or two hits. Tembo can also hover for a few moments and ground pound, but unlike Yoshi, he doesn’t look like a child’s play toy while doing so. These things and more make Tembo one badass elephant indeed.

Review copy was provided by the publisher. For information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.

  • Tight, fast platforming
  • Nice array of moves for Tembo
  • Great, colorful art style
  • Over too soon!
  • Some bosses are confusing