There are swathes of games which on the surface come across as titles that could have been released on the 8 / 16-bit consoles. Games such as The Messenger, Shovel Knight, Downwell and Dead Cells all look the part but we know that the hardware referenced wouldn’t run them anywhere near as smoothly as they are presented on current systems for obvious reasons.
This is a good thing as it allows the nostalgia for the visuals and audio style of those previous eras to be enjoyed at a smoother pace in a modern setting without the need to spend loads of cash on multiple systems (and cables…and controllers…). There’s also a sub-genre of games don’t just go for the look…they go hard-core, and that’s exactly the camp in which Tanglewood has pitched its flag.
Review: Britt Roberts - aka https://twitter.com/BrittRecluseuk
Game Title: Tanglewood
Developer: Big Evil Corporation
Platform Reviewed: PC (Steam)
Tanglewood looks, sounds and more importantly feels like a game that was released circa 1993. From the screen shots and classic 16-bit era animal mascot protagonist (in this case, a fox called Nymn) the game is fully entrenched in its SEGA Mega Drive roots. Recently I’ve played two games that have a similar vibe; Nogalious, which plays exactly like a lost Amstrad CPC title, (a computer close to my heart) and Fox ‘N’ Forests, which is SNES through and through.
There’s something really charming about these games, their dedication to replicating the 80s and 90s so deeply, limitations and all can result in some serious golden nostalgia.
The story that drives Tanglewood (I HAVE to stop thinking about the guitar brand) is that Nymn gets separated from the pack and travels through various levels in order to catch up. Whilst you many assume that this is a speedy platformer in the vein of Sonic, it has more in common with The Lion King in terms of movement (which takes some getting used to due to the inertia that has been replicated with digital as opposed to analogue controls, again, as per the original MD hardware) and a touch of Lemmings in its puzzle elements.
A typical level in Tanglewood has you entering the stage from the left and trying to work your way through to the right-hand side of the level, naturally…this isn’t all that easy. Nymn is a delicate creature and can be killed by the single touch of an enemy (or the occasionally-spotted angry blue squirrel) and also by the fierce hog-creature that haunts the end section of each stage. Aside from these standard platforming sections, there are puzzle elements in the form of small creatures that need to be rolled, dropped and generally transported under handily-placed glowing flowers. When this is completed, Nymn can change colour and this colour represents the unlocked power temporarily bestowed by saving the aforementioned creatures. It’s fun working out what each power does and thus how it will help you work through the level so I won’t divulge too much here but rest assured, getting your bearings in each section, saving the cute little balls of fur, unlocking powers and besting the end of level boss is a real thrill and surprisingly moreish.
The games’ audio takes cues from titles such as Flashback and even Wolfchild in that music is used sparingly. Aside from ambient noises (oddly reminiscent of the background noise in PGA Golf 2, good) and typically in turns chiming, thudding and swirling Mega Drive sound effects (still love them!) the game is a calm and quiet affair with the music only ramping up when danger looms, perfectly matching its pacing and tone.
Tanglewood has a genuinely unique approach in terms of Mega Drive puzzling. The deliberately- paced environmental puzzles dovetail well with the chase sequences, giving variation that opens up further and further as the game progresses. It’s pretty clear to me that if this game was released back in 1993 it would be an original hit and get heralded a classic alongside other games of the era. Released now in 2018? It’s a solid puzzle-platformer that clearly caters more towards those who remember the classic SEGA console fondly but has enough character for newer players to get involved as well.
An extra bonus is that the Steam purchase comes with a ROM that can be loaded into an Everdrive and played on the original hardware, a nice touch!
(Tanglewood is also available for purchase as a Sega Mega Drive game from the Big Evil Corporation website for £54.99)
More info: https://tanglewoodgame.com/