Beat ’em ups and hack and slash games offer just the right amount of style to feel great while also offering the ability to turn off your brain and wind down for the day, which is great. I love that. Sometimes, you really just need that. You don’t necessarily want a super engaging plot in your free time that requires you to think three steps around the corner in order to understand it. Similarly, you don’t necessarily want to spend hours practising combos if you only have so much time to play games in the first place. Games like Devil May Cry and Blades of Time may let you brawl it out in style if you want the challenge or you just fight your way through masses of enemies, spamming the same combo over and over again, which can be a lot of fun when you’re drained from your day job… And well, Tunche tries to combine that formula with roguelike mechanics but fails to do so from the get-go.
Developer: LEAP Game Studios Publisher: HypeTrain Digital Genre: Action, Roguelike, Hack and Slash, 2D, Brawler, Indie Release Date: November 2nd, 2021 Reviewed on: PC Available on: PC (MacOS, Linux, Windows), Switch, PS4, XB1 Copy was purchased.
Tunche follows four young characters and the Hat Kid from A Hat In Time in their journey to the titular Amazon Spirit for their own rites. Rumi is a sorceress, Pancho is a musician, Quaru is a bird boy and Nayra is a warrior. The Hat Kid is just vibing. Honestly, I have no clue why it’s there in the first place but hey, it’s using kaomoji for its speech, so that’s cute? Take up to three friends with you on your journey through four distinct worlds and fight your way through masses of enemies while amassing style points for delivering great combos. Sounds good, right? Well, sadly, no. The characters may seem distinct in their appearance and interesting as a concept but their combos are the same throughout the early stages of the game. You essentially can shoot a projectile using mana and combo enemies with the same three-button combos in the air or on the ground. You can dash and jump to dodge enemies and when you successfully get a lot of hits in while you avoid getting hit yourself, your rank goes up a little bit… but you can’t really get above a certain grade, it seems, without using more advanced combos. Said advanced combos, however, are unlocked in a skill tree and require a lot of grinding.
The resources for that skill tree are earned throughout each stage by fighting enemies and amassing higher combo grades. The higher your grade, the more rewards. Sounds fun as a concept but I found it annoying at times when you get hit and the combo meter suddenly gets reset. And well, all the different characters are essentially the same without does unlocked combos. While Hades provides a lot of character and personality between each run by showing you little bits and pieces of the side characters’ and Zagreus’ backstory,… Tunche fails to deliver that. The dialogue is boring, the writing isn’t exactly appealing and well, combat feels painful to watch. It’s taking ages to get to those fun combos and the “core” system that you have in here – that is in place to make runs more unique – doesn’t really stand out. Cores are essentially perks you can find during your runs that add a slow to your magic projectile or a lightning effect here and there… but the chance is incredibly low and you need to upgrade said cores further, which requires more grinding… which is a pain in the butt.
The main premise of the game is that you fight through these unique stages but each stage looks basically the same as the one before that. The four worlds add a little bit of uniqueness to the colour palette and make the world feel a little bit more vivid, especially due to the hand-drawn style, but every single stage is basically just a hill with some trees around and nothing else. There’s nothing that makes one stage look different from the one before. The worlds are the only changing thing if you get there at all… Otherwise, you’ll be bored senseless.
The same goes for the enemies: You have a bunch of different enemies in each world but you’ll most likely see them in the first stage of each world and then they’ll just get repeated over and over again. I don’t want to drag on this game too much really but I had high hopes for the game. It was funded through a Kickstarter campaign and the gifs on the store page show super cool magical attacks as well as interesting enemy designs but in the end, the gameplay is bottlenecked by the endless grinding required to play it in the first place. I played it solo but if I had to play it with friends, they’d have to essentially also grind out for their own characters. If a friend wanted to play with me, they’d start on a character that I haven’t levelled yet and it would probably be less fun as I’d be able to perform all those fun combos on my favourite character and they’d just have to do the same X-X-X combo over and over again until they die from boredom.
Now, if I were able to change something, I’d give the player more unique perks that allow you to make runs differently. I’d maybe play around a system with dash attacks, aerial combos, and effectively a “light” attack and a “heavy” attack, similar to Hades and then I’d work with that. Even something along the lines of grabs would be amazing here as it would add more variance to your combos. Instead of grinding out characters, each character would have unique combos that you can try to achieve… and instead of grinding out your cores, you’d have more items that synergise with your characters in different ways. Unique interactions, after all, are what roguelike players want. Similarly, combos are everything for Beat ‘Em Up fans, so bottle-necking that with endless grinding is a really bad design choice. Overall, Tunche was promising at first but failed to deliver due to the endless grind that bottlenecks this game. It’s a bummer really as I was hoping for a fun action-roguelike with beat em up mechanics but I ended up with something that was just… boring. I cannot recommend this game in its current state.