Tembo the Badass Elephant (PlayStation 4) Review

By Albert Lichi 20.07.2015

Review for Tembo the Badass Elephant on PlayStation 4

When most gamers think of Game Freak, they will almost always think of Pokémon. Fact is, Game Freak has been around for a while and is actually well versed in the art of character-mascot platformers since 1994. Pulseman was Game Freak's earlier release for the Mega Drive and has had a cult following due to its elaborate pixel art and low-barrier challenge. While Pulseman might have been forgotten to the point of obscurity, SEGA and Game Freak are seeking to reinvigorate the mascot-style platformer with Tembo the Badass Elephant. Is Tembo as badass as they say? Cubed3 sizes up this elephant in this latest review…

Over the past few years, gaming has seen a surge of popularity of genre throw-backs. From Shovel Knight's clear homage to popular NES games, Rayman Legends and even unending popularity of the Mario side-scroller games prove that certain qualities of gaming in the '80s and '90s were perfected and can still be enjoyable today. With SEGA and Game Freak's newest 2D platformer, Tembo the Badass Elephant, the tenants of a highly enjoyable '90s-style platformer are all here and accounted for. Visually, it looks like a radical Nickelodeon-esque cartoon from more than two decades ago, with its deft etched line work and bubbly character designs. Even the choice of colour, which is easy on the eyes, evokes memories of "Rocko's Modern Life." It is pretty incredible that Game Freak, a developer known for Pokemon made a game like Tembo because, even upon extreme close inspection, it is unlikely that anyone could link this to that team.

The plot is as follows: the local army needs help, so the General contacts an old war-buddy of his, Tembo, who just so happens to be an elephant. Tembo is a highly trained operative who naturally loves peanuts (collect 300, get an extra life!) and is generally a pretty reliable pachyderm. Armed with only his tusks and sheer bulk, Tembo leads an assault on the enemy forces and treks across 17 stages, one of which is possibly paying homage to the casino zone from the Sonic games, where Tembo becomes a pinball in a gigantic machine, complete with flippers, too. As Tembo charges through these levels, he will need to crush his enemies, not just for fun, but because to reach the boss of the sector a certain amount of kills are required in order to unlock the barrier to the boss areas. There are also civilians to save in almost every level, but the core game is always charging and platforming with the odd quirk to give some variety.

Screenshot for Tembo the Badass Elephant on PlayStation 4

Anyone who has played the recent Rayman Legends or any of the Donkey Kong Country releases will feel some similarities with Tembo The Badass Elephant. Like Donkey Kong, Tembo is a big animal and moves with a great deal of weight and force where he can smash through countless enemies and launch himself with the inertia for greater distance. The physics of controlling this pachyderm feel very deliberate, although there are certain quirks to get used to, such as how Tembo has a slight delay when doing specific actions that leave him exposed. These are just some of the aspects that demand skill. Tembo the Badass Elephant is a game that does require a bit of accuracy and quick reflexes since it is a throw-back platformer and much like Rayman Legends, the difficulty rises quite a bit. This is not normally a problem in most titles of this ilk, yet since Tembo is very short and has very few, yet tightly designed levels (about 17 in total), it can be a bit jarring how the difficulty will spike between stages. This is the disappointing part as it is great - fantastic even - yet it is over too quickly and there is not enough content to warrant a $14.99 price for something that lasts about three hours.

If Tembo the Badass Elephant was $9.99, it would totally be recommended, but at $14.99 it feels a tad steep since it is just so short and lacks any extra modes or worthy unlockables. Game Freak set out to make a lean mean platforming action machine and succeeded, for the most part. This is like a very fancy and superb meal at a high end restaurant that requires reservations and when the food arrives, the portions are as minuscule as they are delicious, leaving the patron still hungry for more. That being said, there is never a dull moment and it never wastes a single beat - even when the challenge gets ridiculous and requires pitch perfect platforming, the urge to press on and try again never fades. A game about such a massive hero shouldn't feel thin with its content.

Screenshot for Tembo the Badass Elephant on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Tembo the Badass Elephant's ride may be a very short one, but it is undeniably a high quality romp. The game has very high highs with very few low points and not a single bit of filler or wasted moments. Tembo can almost be too lean by being so utterly focused in upping the challenge, though. The design and aesthetics are 100% on the mark and it is curious that Game Freak doesn't do more original titles like this as often, since it is clearly very good at it. Game Freak is so much more than just Pokémon and Tembo the Badass Elephant proves it.


Game Freak




2D Platformer



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   


There are no replies to this review yet. Why not be the first?

Comment on this article

You can comment as a guest or join the Cubed3 community below: Sign Up for Free Account Login

Preview PostPreview Post Your Name:
Validate your comment
  Enter the letters in the image to validate your comment.
Submit Post

Subscribe to this topic Subscribe to this topic

If you are a registered member and logged in, you can also subscribe to topics by email.
Sign up today for blogs, games collections, reader reviews and much more
Site Feed
Who's Online?

There are 1 members online at the moment.