Tunican indie adventure game that mixes influences The Legend of Zelda and dark souls in an adorable and mysterious package, has been taking over my brain for two weeks. It’s been ages since I’ve finished a game and dipped into New Game Plus mode without even stopping to refill the glass of water on my desk. I have to admit, though: I never would have reached the end – let alone enjoyed the ride as much as I did – without occasionally using the game’s “No Fail” mode.
As much as I savored the puzzles and the sense of discovery in Tunic, I struggled with his fight. The little vulpine hero’s sword swings seem floating, slow and imprecise. The game lacks the laser precision of combat-like isometric games like underworld, where failure always seemed to be my fault. In Tunic, I often failed in combat sequences simply because I didn’t launch a frontal attack or dodge in exactly the right direction – even though I was often certain that my button presses should have done the job. Even after ten hours of combat in Tunic and several tough boss battles, I still don’t feel like I have the hang of it.
I don’t blame Tunicthe development team for this. It’s almost entirely made up of one person, Andrew Shouldice, who designed and programmed the game. Additional artwork came from Eric Billingsley and ma-ko, and the game’s superb score is credited to Terence Lee and Janice Kwan. Still, the combat design was entirely on Shouldice, along with the level design and puzzle ideation. Tunic is an incredible feat, especially since he didn’t have a bigger team to help him polish his rougher edges.
It was for this reason that I felt no remorse at the idea of lighting Tunic“No Fail” mode. I haven’t used it all the time; I first explored each dungeon with the combat fully engaged, enjoying the rigors of battle and the difficulties of failure as I learned to fend for myself. But once I understood the map of each dungeon, I no longer felt the need to fight each enemy over and over again. I would turn on “No Fail” and delve into the secrets of each location, not worrying about dying as I dug up every last chest and power-up.
With “No Fail” enabled, TunicThe hero still has to engage in battle, and when hit, his health meter continues to drop. When the health gauge reaches zero, however, the hero does not die; their counter stays at zero forever while the fight continues. There is also a setting to disable the stamina meter, allowing the fox to always have a full stamina meter. I didn’t use it as often, as I liked to struggle with the stamina gauge (just like I do in dark souls) but not having to respawn completely helped me enjoy the game’s puzzles without any sense of dread.
TunicPuzzles are easily its best asset; in my opinion they are the only reason to play the game. My favorite part was exploring each room looking for ladders, doors and hidden paths. I would slowly walk all around each individual area, slowly moving along the bridges to see if the telltale A button prompt would appear, indicating a hidden ladder to climb. I rushed behind the walls, my fox barely visible, hoping to see the same prompt for a hidden chest to open.
The game also features much more complex puzzles, like learning certain button patterns to unlock specific types of doors, as well as collecting every page of the game’s manual and making sense of the mysterious language it’s written in. The more I played Tunicthe more I unlocked and understood its world – but, again, I wouldn’t have bothered to play this long if I had been dealing with limp swordplay all this time.
I love challenging myself in fighting games, learning every precise move I need to make to win. Metroid DreadThe boss fights in , for example, hit exactly the right spot in my brain; I loved both the challenge and the sense of pride I felt when I learned the dance moves needed to avoid and counter each attack. But in Tunic, I’ve never had this experience – and that’s fine. It’s not the strong point of the game, and it’s not necessary. By using the “No Fail” mode, I was able to enjoy the best parts of the game, and I always want more. I still have puzzles to solve, and the game has given me the exact tool I need to tackle them and enjoy every moment.