Tunche has been on my radar ever since reading ‘hand-drawn’ and co-op brawler back in April 2020 when it was in its infancy on Kickstarter. Up until now, I’ve curbed my enthusiasm and will now register all my praise in this Tunche Review.
All my praise may indicate that this is the best thing since sliced bread, it’s not: nothing has been better since those pioneering wizards formulated that technique. But let’s not take away the focus on LEAP Game Studio’s entry into the brawling arena. After getting off to a shaky start, it delivers on its promises (it didn’t make any) and is a decent brawler.
What’s that shaky start? The gameplay. Ouch. More on that in a paragraph or two. Let’s first touch on the game in question. What’s it all about? Had a gang member been kidnapped? Does the President want to go for a burger with you and your twin brother? Fortunately, this isn’t a generic beat ’em up story, nor is the Amazon rainforest setting.
You control one of five characters – solo or in co-op. Each has a backstory and abilities unique to them. Commands are the same for each; a melee attack, mana move, dash and the ability for launching enemies into the air to chain some combos. Combos are critical to your success, and this was the shaky start I alluded to.
With a limited number of attacks, Tunche felt like a button-masher, and while you can take that path, it’s crucial to chain attacks. Why? because each screen ranks you in the style of Devil May Cry, with the S rank being for the elite. On the surface. For each string of attacks, you’ll fill a letter until it moves to the next rank, though should you get interrupted, it’ll drop a rank. Likewise, if you’re not being proactive, the gauge will continue to decline.
Tunche combat was a little…boring. Mash attack, launch enemies in the air, mash again, then dash to safety. However, through progress, characters unlock new moves and skills that make this much more engaging, and that challenge for a decent rank is doable. Instead of reliving school as a B student, I reached SS rank, even flirting with SSS, thus changing my opinion of the combat.
The rogue-like elements are another driving force in Tunche. You’ll eventually die (starting health and potions are tighter than a duck’s arse), but with each run, you have the potential for improvement. There isn’t the conventional XP on offer, but pending you rank high in your battles, it’s possible to earn essence and shards to unlock abilities and boost your cores.
Cores are attainable buffs that randomly drop each run or can be purchased at a merchant. They vary in ability from leeching health (a must) to shocking enemies. Multiple cores can be equipped at any one time, but if you don’t need them, they can be converted to shards to raise a core’s level permanently.
The base in Tunche is no different than any other rogue-like: upon death, you return to the campfire, select your character and complete another run. Before that, you can visit NPCs to upgrade your stats, view some story codecs and more. There’s even the chance to unlock totems that appear in each biome that can heal you mid-run. Essential if you ask me. You’re not? Oh. I’ll go stand in this corner then.
My interest in combo-focused combat foes back to the days of Killer Instinct or using Lei Wulong in Tekken 2 for chain attacks. I’m over that now, but the accessibility here is excellent, and as mentioned, it didn’t take long to get in the swing and earn SS ranks. Steady on the referencing there.
Tunche gameplay could be interpreted as quite simplistic, a button-masher, but that’s not the case. Once you unlock new abilities and dash like it was second nature, the experience opens up. It gets to the point where it’s enjoyable to return to camp to start a new run, unlocking new goodies or trying a different character rather than feeling defeated that you died again. My biggest criticism is the repetitiveness (a trait of the genre), and enemies off-screen that can’t be reached – I had to restart on two occasions.
To end on a positive, it’s a delight to witness some charming character designs – not just the playable characters, but the creatures too. It’s a visual style unlike anything else right now, at least not something you’ll see in most titles. Just be prepared to be patient with the mechanics, and the rewards will be worth it, especially if you can rope in some friends for co-op.