Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, and PC
Platform Reviewed On: PS4
Developer: Chamelon Games
Publisher: Chamelon Games
Genre: 3D-platformer, exploration, third-person shooter.
When I first learned of Tamarin, I was drawn in by that adorable main character design. And when I saw that twist in the trailer, I really got some Jet Force Gemini vibes. So I was at least mildly curious how Tamarin would turn out.
Tamarin’s story is pretty basic and largely non-existent for most of the game, though that’s not really an issue for a platformer. You play as a cute monkey looking creature whose house gets burned down and his family scattered following an attack of insects with guns. Not surprisingly, you go on a quest to find your relatives while dealing with the threat of the gun-totting insects who are messing up the land.
The designs of the main character and other animals you encounter are certainly aesthetically pleasing. Enemy design is perhaps a bit basic, and level design ranges from colorful to drab, boring looking areas (typically where the shooting sections start). Graphically the game is not very impressive – aside from the characters – having very dated looking textures. There’s no real voice-acting other than a weird narration section at the beginning that somehow tries to compress all the tutorials into one single info dump. The music is occasionally pleasing.
The gameplay is an odd mix of platforming and 3rd person shooting. Initially, the game introduces you to some typically 3D platforming, until it suddenly switches up to TPS gameplay. The gameplay loop consists of finding fireflies to unlock doors to the insect strongholds. In there, you switch to your guns by talking to a hedgehog, who acts as your shopkeeper, trading new weapons and upgrades for collectibles. These sections are quite discreet. You can’t enter them without switching to your guns, and you won’t get very far in the platforming areas with your guns, as you’re only relegated to short jumps and walking. This transition in gameplay does feel a bit jarring, though, and could have been done more elegantly.
There’s both a lot and not a lot to say about the gameplay overall. There’s nothing particularly eye-catching about the gameplay in particular. It’s all very basic platforming and shooting, to the point I kinda wished they had settled to one type of gameplay and added more depth to it. Shooting, in particular, is nothing more than pulling the trigger and running. Most of the time, you proceed by killing all the enemies in a section to unlock a gate to the next area. There are some ammo upgrades, and if you’re lucky, a new weapon from the hedgehog to be found, but that’s about it. Well, that and rescuing birds that net you more fireflies later on, though they’re as liable to die by enemy gunfire as they are by your own ñ. The latter manages to actually make you feel rather bad about it (though you can always come back to try again).
Unfortunately, as little as there is to say about shooting mechanics by itself, there’s a lot to say about its shortcomings. Shooting controls are floaty and imprecise; in particular, aiming is a pain in the monkey’s behind, and the game isn’t shy in forcing you to manually aim to take down swarms of enemies. Enemy AI is bad. If they aren’t running straight out of the cover into your spray of a bullet, they’re running straight into you, ironically often doing more damage that way than with their bullets. Checkpoints are oddly placed; they’re often too far from sections where you may likely die ñ like with rocket-launcher wielding foes ñ, and yet I also found them so close to each other that I didn’t understand the purpose of it. Coupled with a badly placed camera, I can’t say the shooting sections are particularly enjoyable.
The platforming isn’t much better, being very basic and suffering from the same camera and floaty controls. And of course, the game is once again not shy in asking for precise jumps and traversal. The best compliment I can give it is that it’s not fundamentally broken, though I did encounter a bug or crash here and there.
Conclusion and Score:
Tamarin feels like a game from a bygone era like Yooka-Laylee, and just like that game, it hasn’t taken any of the lessons learned since resulting in a very frustrating experience. Having an adorable protagonist isn’t enough to save this game from being just mediocre. In the end, Tamarin is a failed attempt to evoke nostalgia with an awkward combination of two gameplay styles that ends up feeling like two halves of different games yet poorly implemented. Truly a shame.