Developer: Leap Game Studios
Release Date: November 2 2021
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: HyperTrain Digital
Genre: Beat ‘em up, rogue-lite
Some of my earliest gaming memories revolve around arcade beat ’em ups. And while I still find the genre entertaining, some that don’t share my fond memories may find beat ’em ups repetitive. Tunche by developer Leap Game Studios and publisher HyperTrain Digital embraces the genre’s repetitive tendencies and combines them with rogue-lite elements. Along with downright gorgeous visuals and rich folklore to draw from, it’s a relatively solid single-player or cooperative battling experience as a package.
Tunche’s story follows five youths as they seek the Amazon spirit and game’s namesake, Tunche. Each character has their own reason for encountering the spirit, but to get to it, they must travel down the banks of the Amazon river, which has recently been infested with several monstrous creatures.
Many of these creatures and characters are drawn directly from South American folklore. It’s nice seeing tales and figures not often found in gaming represented here. Along with the Amazon regions and setting, it immediately stands out as something a bit different.
There are four regions in Tunche, each containing ten levels and a boss at the end of each section. The gameplay feels similar to other beat ’em ups, a range of movement and basic moves that will feel right at home with veterans of the genre.
Rogue-lite elements quickly come into play as you’re not meant to get too far without failing. When you do, you are brought back to your campsite, where you can use items obtained on your journey to upgrade your characters. These moments are incredibly generous, allowing you to maintain your money, experience points, and other items collected from a run. The only thing you’re not able to carry with you are orbs which work as temporary stat boosts you can stack on top of each other.
The other items you collect can be used to give you new moves, permanently increase your stats, and provide you with possible health regenerations in future runs. One of the ways this is implemented is through individual character skill trees. It’s presented nicely and motivates you to jump back into your next run and try again for more unlockables.
Experience for your skill tree only pertains to that individual character; every other upgrade works towards your general future runs regardless of character. There are quite a few offered upgrades at the campsite, allowing players struggling with several options to make their playthroughs a tad easier.
In contrast to some older arcade beat ’em ups that rely on cheap enemy movies, Tunche actually has a more in-depth battle system. Taking influence from modern combat systems in gaming, enemies will quickly telegraph their strike, allowing you to dodge out of the way. This creates a lot of movement when playing and helps keep things a bit more engaging. Darting around the screen, landing hits to vulnerable monsters are excellent and pretty satisfying, especially with more abilities.
When you have more attack sections unlocked on your skill tree, you can execute combos. While they’re not difficult to pull off some, do take some slight memorization. It can take a bit of practice to pull off correctly, and with hordes of enemies attacking, it can be a challenge to recall a particular move as fast as you would like.
Along with these combos, there are also long-range magic attacks and specials to consider. One of the best feeling moves is a dedicated attack which can fling enemies into the air allowing you to initiate specific air attacks or simply juggle them until their demise. Each character also has a very distinct feel and strengths when playing them as well. All this combined speaks to Tunche’s gameplay depth that isn’t always present in other beat ’em ups.
Cooperative play and beat ’em up are basically synonymous for some, and Tunche gives the option for up to four players at once in local co-op. This multiplayer mode adds to the chaos and is a great couch experience. Unfortunately, there isn’t an online option that might be the preferred option or the only available co-play option for some gamers.
Perhaps the most striking part of Tunche is the beautiful hand-drawn animations and art style. Character movements flow gracefully and smoothly, adding real-life and personality to enemies and heroes alike.
Each character has an immensely appealing design and could be easily mistaken for a high production animated feature film. Colors and environments are also incredibly vibrant, allowing the Amazonian regions to really pop, giving you pretty backgrounds for your battles. It’s immediately evident a ton of love went into making every piece of art and illustration.
Because of this, I feel it’s a shame that two out of the four regions happen to look incredibly similar. I understand that it must be a challenge to make rainforest environments look different, but the following two levels stand out quite a bit. It would have helped things feel a bit more interesting for levels you will be repeating numerous times. It may seem like a small grip, but it did affect my overall experience and excitement for the game.
There were also some bugs that, unfortunately, are relatively consistent. The most common one is that when some enemies are knocked offscreen, they get stuck there, forcing you to blindly use your long-ranged magic to hit them until they’re gone. This might be a slight annoyance if it wasn’t for the fact that your long-ranged magical attacks are limited. Unfortunately, because of this and another glitch where your character disappears and can’t interact with anything, you are sometimes unable to advance. Luckily, a checkpoint system allows you to return to the previous room you finished so you don’t lose all your progress on the run, but the issue was frequent enough it happened at least once, if not twice, each run I had.
Tunche has some performance issues, but it more than makes up for it with its presentation. The combat is thoroughly enjoyable and complex. The visual style and animations are a complete joy, and the rogue-lite elements are incredibly generous and motivating for players to continue run after run. Tunche provides an entraining and, at times, addicting beat ’em up experience, and that’s all I could have asked for.
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