Tunic Review: A little fox with a big heart

We've seen a resurgence of throwback action-adventure games over the last few years and it's obvious to see why. Gorgeous pixelated visuals, complex puzzles and world design that has lasted the test of time. Unfortunately, the bar to pull this off is very high and Tunic is just one fox.

Tunic is immediately a rather enthralling game. Playing a fox, waking up in a land unfamiliar to them - you have to explore around, whacking bad guys and solving puzzles to figure out what's holding you here.

Though peeling back the mystery is fascinating, actually getting there can be a little bit of a slog.

The Set Up

The first thing you will likely notice with Tunic is how great it looks. It blends an isometric view of the world with a great lush colour palette and surprisingly intricate designs. One of the best things about Tunic's art design is how well the lighting works.

Tunic Review
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As you walk into a room, you are often subtly guided towards the right path through the leaking of light and set up of the room. When this works, it feels natural and pretty great.

Unfortunately, exploration isn't always that well thought out. I happened to fall my way into the right solution far too many times in my playthrough and I couldn't help but wonder what would happen to a player if they hadn't clung to the right wall like I had or hadn't moved the stick in the right direction by accident. Where some solutions are signposted well, others feel a little too random.

Keeping Notes

To make up for this, Tunic introduces a notebook mechanic to make your way through the game. As you will notice the second you pick up an item, you can not speak the language Tunic is in. You can click yes and no on certain things but you have to piece together what it is from context clues.

You pick up lost pages from a notebook that essentially instruct you on what the game is. It has buttons and pictures but the text is incomprehensible early on. Despite not being able to even speak the same language, actions are universal.

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When it works, this is a tremendous mechanic that not only alleviates earlier sections of the game but really makes you appreciate communication as a whole. Tunic is likely a game that will be tackled as a community, rather than a string of individual players.

In the review period, I had access to a Discord group filled with other people playing the game and this experience was rather great. Sharing hints to get through sections without spoiling it for those who haven't played it yet is a great watercooler moment that gave a certain magic to figuring out that puzzle people have been hinting at.

How does it sound?

The magic is only further infused by Tunic's great soundtrack. There's a subtle loneliness to the spacy strings and hollow drums that makes exploring an alien feeling world more atmospheric. The soundtrack is loaded in light instrumentation and airy synths that leave everything feeling a little hard to grasp.

These things culminate in the atmosphere of Tunic working incredibly well. Although the esoteric design of some puzzles may leave you wondering through the same areas, the game's great visuals and calming music may satiate you.

Outside of exploration and puzzles, perhaps the most important aspect left is combat. Initially starting with nothing but a stick, you can upgrade to a sword and shield in a short time, kitting you out to take on the game's bosses. Unfortunately, swings are a little clunky and the roll mechanic isn't quite as precise as I would have liked. Although you can upgrade your stats throughout the game, you never really feel much stronger mechanically.

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To balance this out, you are regularly given new tools, balancing combat and increasing your traversal capabilities. After a certain point, you are allowed to explore parts of Tunic's world at your own pace and it really benefits from this freedom. The idea that you could just take another path whenever you get stuck leaves progression feeling more consistent throughout - even if puzzle pacing can suffer.

Tunic Verdict

Tunic is a wonderful throwback to the esoteric puzzle-solving of the classic Legend of Zelda, with all the pitfalls that come with it. It balances occasionally frustrating solutions and sometimes clunky combat with charming visuals and enough self-satisfaction to make a souls game blush. If you want something that really makes you feel like a child playing NES, this is one for you.

RealSport Rating: 4 out of 5

We reviewed Tunic on PC with code provided by the publisher

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