Published on January 9th, 2024 | by Gareth Newnham
Tunic PS5 Review
Summary: Tunic is a charming and challenging adventure that celebrates gaming's more obtuse age
Bring a notepad
Tunic is a Zelda clone in the purest sense possible; by this, I mean it takes its queues from the original Legend of Zelda on the NES. You are dropped into the world and basically left to figure things out (you will need to dust off your old notepad, trust me)
Playing as an adorable fox wearing a familiar green tunic who washes up on an unfamiliar and unforgiving island, it’s then up to you to figure out the best way to make your way through the world.
Not only did it bring memories of my early gaming days rushing back to me, but it also sent me straight back to a summer I tried to teach myself Japanese by playing games, as most of the game is presented in its own language.
Thankfully, you’re not completely alone on this beautifully crafted isometric adventure, as scattered throughout the world are pages from the game’s manual packed full of tips and clues to help you understand and overcome the myriad of obstacles you are likely to face.
You’re going to need all the help you can get too, because Tunic is an unforgiving sonofa…
The world of Tunic is a particularly grave one, and the world is bursting with baddies who are more than happy to make you drop all your loot. There are slimes that bounce about and explode upon death, angry caped, sword-swinging goblins, bats that lash you with their lengthy tongue, and much more besides, as more enemy types bar your path as you make your way through the slowly expanding world.
Like all good Zeldalikes, exploration and experimentation are rewarded. There’s a myriad of secret paths, shortcuts, and an ever-expanding inventory of new trinkets and items to help you unlock new paths and best the shower blocking your way.
It’s also packed full of challenging boss battles, much like the original Zelda or a FromSoft game whose name escapes me. Likewise, when you die, and you will, a lot, you drop all of the cash you have collected up until that point, and you’re pushed back to the last fox statue you prayed at. (Guess what happens to enemies and your health when you pray at one?)
Stamina also plays an important part in combat too. Rolling and blocking with your shield both use up stamina, and when you run out, you’ll be vulnerable to attack, so knowing when to attack and when to retreat is vital; thankfully, your offensive capabilities grow exponentially as the game progresses, and does your collection of estus flasks health potions, so by the game’s final stages enemies you once, desperately struggled to survive against while wielding a pointed stick, will crumble in seconds thanks to your now much mightier sword and shield.
The presentation is also top-notch, using simple shading geometric shapes and clever lighting to create a beautiful isometric world is both familiar and fresh at the same time, It also helps that the titular Tunic is absolutely adorable to boot, and emotes in subtle, yet effective ways.
The enemy designs, though, feel more functional but do a great job of allowing players to be able to quickly read them and know what part of them is likely to come hurling toward their skull in short order.
Likewise, Terence Lee (Life formed) and Janice Kwan’s soundtrack is absolutely superb. A mix of soaring synths, delicate piano riffs, and driving drums help to give the world of Tunic an ethereal, almost dreamlike quality tinged with 16-bit nostalgia.
Tunic, like all good Zeldalikes, is really about the hero’s journey, from a shaky start to the savior of a mystical island in tiny increments. With every stumble and fall, a lesson is learned; each new page of the manual, every new piece of equipment, and every little victory slowly amounts to something much greater. It in some ways a meditative game, but it’s also one packed full of satisfying challenges and hard-fought battles. If you have fond memories of adventuring in a green tunic, I couldn’t recommend slipping on this particular garment enough,