It’s not often you get a chance to see development of a new game for the long-dead Sega Megadrive (or Genesis in the US) so when the Kickstarter for Tanglewood from Big Evil Corporation went live, naturally, I was all over it like a dung beetle on poop. What is even better is not only is it a new Megadrive game but it is a puzzle-platformer with an anthro fox type creature as the playable character. To add even more icing onto the cake, the Kickstarter page has a link to a prototype version of the game’s first three levels, with earlier prototypes available on Big Evil Corp’s website. I love prototype games.
Since purchasing a flash cart for the Megadrive, this seemed like the perfect game to try out so the prototype was downloaded and thoroughly enjoyed.
Below is a video of Hedge playing through the game, but I thought I’d offer my thoughts on the game here. So keep reading if you want to know my thoughts, or if it’s TL;DR then skip to the bottom to watch myself and Hedgie give the game a run through on the TigerTails Gaming YouTube channel.
Tanglewood is a puzzle-platformer in the same veins as Flashback, Another World, and The Lion King. The demo offered shows us three levels in a forest and we get to control Nymn, a member of the fox-like Djunn race. Separated from his family and all alone in the forest, Nymn must journey through the terrain while avoiding the traps Tanglewood has to offer. In the demo we get the Djakk race as the main enemy. They are huge monsters who will quite happily hunt down and nom on Nymn so it is up to you to use your wits to outsmart and outpace these creatures. You are not alone in this, however, as friendly balls of fluff called Fuzzls can aid Nymn by lending their powers (in exchange for a little help getting to a nest) to allow our protagonist to glide and cloak/slow time. The full game will offer more powers but for the demo, these are the two we get to play with (that I’ve found so far).
Currently there are three available levels which all take place in the forest. The scenery is a little sparse presently but in this early stage of development that is to be expected. There is also very little in the way of sound effects and music, though with the recent addition of Freezedream to the team, the game is set to have rather good music in it. Music will be welcomed as there is a lot of time spent just listening to the running sound effect, which doesn’t really fill the space up and can make the empty forest seem even more barren. The sounds effects that are there are for the most part rather good. The aforementioned running effect is spot on and syncs up with the animation. Fuzzls have a nice bounce “paff” and the sound of being ejected from a flue is rather satisfying, if a little cartoony. I think the game would benefit from a more complete soundscape, though I’m sure that this is far from the mind of the creators currently as they’ll be wanting to concentrate on level design and things first.
Speaking of the level design, it’s functional in its current state. There are opportunities to backtrack to get missing collectables if you want to get them all (and the pause screen tells you how many you’ve collected so far) but there’s very little level that is there for the sake of being “there”. If you can see it, chances are you’ll need to use it at some point. The puzzles and encounters in the demo use what’s available very nicely though. You’ll need to keep a keen eye out for Fuzzl nests and part of the puzzles are based around you pushing one of these little fluffballs home. The other part of the puzzles are based around enemy encounters with the Djakk. You can run, but they can run faster. You can climb, but they will be down there, following your every move when they can. However the opening cutscenes do offer a clue as to how to defeat them. It was a subtle touch that I was very impressed with as the game had taught you all you needed to know, you just had to put the pieces together – and I’m normally clueless to these kind of things. There are chase sequences and here I found the controls to be tight and responsive. However, my aging Sega joypads were not having such a good time – but that’s not something I can blame the game for. Each time I died during a chase (that wasn’t my controller’s fault) I felt it was an honest death and not the game cheating me out of survival, though the Djakk’s hitbox is huge and can get you if you’re not well clear of him. There are no lives, much like Another World, and death means either restarting the level, or from an unmarked checkpoint.
Finally I’d like to quickly mention the animation. Nymn is as smooth as silk and has fluidity and grace. It’s clear that a lot of attention to detail has been paid here and it pays off royally. Nymn as a character is cute as all sin, from the way he glides, pushes Fuzzls around, to the way he goes to sleep at the end of each level. He’s adorable and I want him as a pet. The Fuzzls are also well made, even if they are just little balls of fluff. The Djakk is large, imposing, and fierce. However, I do think his art style is a little jarring next to Nymn’s. It’s a little less cartoony and a tad more realistic. The attention to detail remains, however, as his large fangs are dripping with the blood of his last kill. When he runs, his shoulder muscles move in a way that seems believable, and his whole body is in motion when he roars. Lots of little details that would normally be unnoticed unless they were missing, and it’s the little things that help immerse you into the world. So while the environment is quite sparse, there is a lot of depth to be found in the character animation.
So that’s Tanglewood. A promising looking game that’s currently seeking funding on Kickstarter. The game will be coming out for PC/Mac as well as the Sega Megadrive. The demo requires either a Megadrive emulator (I personally recommend Kega Fusion) or real hardware using a flash cart like the Everdrive. If you want to know more, check out the links below or give the video a watch.
Music used in the credits:
Fig Leaf Rag, by Kevin MacLeod (Incompetech.com)