Tunic, an indie adventure game that combines elements of The Legend of Zelda and Dark Souls into an endearing and intriguing package, has occupied my mind for the past two weeks. It's been a long time since I finished a game and went straight into New Game Plus mode without even pausing to refill the glass of water on my desk.
But I have to admit, I never would have made it to the end — let alone enjoyed the ride as much as I did — if I hadn't used the game's "No-Fail" mode on occasion.
Tunic's puzzles and sense of discovery have captivated me, but its combat has frustrated me. Swings of the tiny vulpine hero's sword feel sluggish, floaty, and imprecise. Unlike similar combat-heavy isometric games like Hades, where failure always felt like my own fault, the game lacks the laser-like precision of such games.
When I played Tunic, I often failed combat sequences because I had not landed a head-on attack or dodged in the exact right direction - despite feeling confident that my button presses were accurate. After a dozen hours of combat in Tunic and several difficult boss battles, I still haven't quite figured out how to play.
Tunic's development team is not to blame for this. The game was designed and programmed by one person, Andrew Shouldice. In addition to Eric Billingsley and ma-ko, Terence Lee and Janice Kwan contributed the gorgeous score for the game.
Still, Shouldice was responsible for all combat design as well as level design and puzzle design. It is an amazing feat, especially considering that there was no larger team to smooth out the rough edges.
It is precisely because of this reason that I have felt no remorse about turning on Tunic's "No Fail" mode. While I didn't use my hammer the entire time, I explored each dungeon with combat fully engaged, enjoying the rigors of battle and the sting of failure while learning my way around. After I got the hang of each dungeon's map, I no longer felt the need to fight every single enemy repeatedly.
Turning on "No-Fail" enabled me to dive into each location's secrets, not worrying about dying as I found every last chest and power-up.
As long as "No-Fail" is enabled, Tunic's hero will still have to engage in battle and their health bar will still decrease when they are hit. A hero doesn't die when their health gauge reaches zero, but it stays there forever as they continue to fight. It is also possible to turn off the stamina counter, allowing the fox to always know how much stamina he has.
As much as I enjoyed wrestling with the stamina gauge (just like in Dark Souls), not having to respawn completely made the puzzles less stressful.
Tunic's puzzles are one of the game's best assets; in my opinion, they are the whole reason to play the game. Finding hidden ladders, doors, and paths throughout each room was my favorite part. As I slowly walked around each area, I inched along bridges to see if the A-button prompt would appear, thus indicating a ladder to climb.
As I scrambled behind walls, my fox barely visible, I hoped to see the same prompt indicating a hidden che
Additionally, the game also contains more complex puzzles, such as learning button patterns to unlock specific types of doors, as well as reading the in-game manual and making sense of its mysterious language. More and more, I understood Tunic's world - but I wouldn't have played for so long if I'd had to deal with mushy swordplay the entire time.
Combat-heavy games are my favorite way to challenge myself, learning every precise movement I need to execute in order to win. Metaroid Dread's boss battles, for instance, hit the exact right spot in my head, as I felt both challenged and proud when I had successfully countered each and every attack.
But I didn't have that experience in Tunic, and that's fine. The game does not need to be strong in this area. I enjoyed the game's best features while using "No-Fail" mode, and I'm thirsty for more. I still have puzzles to solve, and the game has given me the perfect tool for tackling them and enjoying every moment.
For more stories like this
Explore our website