On the surface, Tunic is a game about a cute fox who is dressed like Link and is styled after the SNES-era Legend of Zelda games. On the surface, Tunic’s art style is gorgeous, the music is well-composed, and the gameplay looks fun.
However, where many homages and tributes in gaming fail to go deeper than surface-level aesthetics and references, Tunic goes beyond its inspiration. The game even plays on the expectations that its players may have coming into the game, setting up a surprising and enjoyable experience.
Tunic looks gorgeous and utilizes its vibrant color pallette to put together some really phenomenal set-pieces. The high fantasy setting is utilized to its perfection, giving the player multiple beautiful areas to explore. The mysterious forest to the east, the overgrown gardens to the west, the sandy beaches to the south, and even the dark tunnels underneath the map are all joys to visit. Every area of the map is deeply unique, lovingly crafted, and has stuck with me even days after finishing the title.
This would not matter much if Tunic was not fun to play, however, it passes that bar with ease. The gameplay is of course deeply inspired by the Legend of Zelda series, but unlike most tributes in gaming, does not limit itself because of that. Normal combat is exactly what you should expect out of this genre, dancing in and out of enemy range, swiping when offered an opening. There are several challenging enemies, many of which are made more difficult by the terrain or gimmick of their subarea. Exploring these subareas is extremely satisfying and rewarding as well. Finding a hallway that is hidden in a dark corner, taking you to a secluded chest on the other side of the wall with an upgrade or even just aesthetic treasure is fun and feels good.
However, the game is at its absolute best when you are engaged in a boss battle. The bosses are brutal exercises that test the players’ knowledge and understanding of the game’s mechanics. Outside of the first major boss, every other boss requires concentration, skill, and determination, and this makes it even more satisfying when you finally conquer each of them. One of the bosses in this game that the player encounters at almost the exact midpoint of the title has made its way onto my list of favorite video game bosses.
The game may not have a deeply intricate and Hollywood-level story, but what it does have is a deeply personal and thoughtful narrative that drives the player forward. There is a major twist that the player will likely see coming from a mile away, but the impact of the twist is not lessened because of that, especially due to the strength of the third act in terms of world-building and character building. There are two endings, and I highly encourage players to experience both of them, although the true ending is more memorable for the extra time I got to spend in the game trying to locate hidden objectives and solve puzzles.
I could write about Tunic for hours and still have several hundred more things to touch on. However, for now, I just encourage the reader to play the game. It is on Xbox Game Pass and is available on most consoles right now. Go in as blind as can be, experience everything as the game gives it to you, and let the experience wash over you. This is a game I wish I could experience for the first time one more time, and I am jealous of the journey you are about to go on.