I had played Tunic when it was released back in March of 2022, but must admit, I never really gave it the chance it deserved. I definitely liked it but simply didn’t put enough time into it in order to uncover its deeper notes and nuances. A year later, Tunic is one of the best games I have played in recent memory, thanks to a visually delightful art style, simplistic yet challenging gameplay and therapeutic pace and tone. It’s rare that games even pull off so much with so little, giving almost anyone a worthy reason to jump in and try this wonderfully charming experience over a year later.
A Little Fox
You take control of the titular Tunic, a fox who awakens on an island, knowing absolutely nothing. It’s in these initial moments that Tunic feels like an old-school Zelda title of sorts, leaving you to explore and discover as you uncover its secrets on your own terms. But given that Tunic tells you absolutely nothing about its story, even going as far as to scrawl menus and text in an unknown language, it’s simply amazing how much Tunic builds so much through minimal context and storytelling, priding itself on small yet consistent discoveries.
While I would rather leave the overall premise undiscussed, its 12-15 hour runtime is certainly worth putting a few nights aside at the end of your day to take a seat and enjoy this relaxing, heartwarming tale of a mysterious fox in an unknown world.
Sword at the Ready
While Tunic’s charming art style and relaxed pace may feel therapeutic at times, it can also be quite challenging. You’ll discover a sword in the early hours of the game, but beyond that, combat is really up to you. You’ll be able to dodge enemies and lock on, but aside from a basic attack combination, you’re sort of left to figure out and evolve on your own. Thankfully checkpoints are closeby though, as almost all enemy types can kill you in just a few hits.
Aside from your health bar, you’ll also have to manage your stamina bar, which drains as you dodge roll away from enemies. Spam this too much and you’ll be open to a flurry of attacks. While Tunic isn’t as difficult as something like Elden Ring or Dark Souls, you’ll encounter a number of boss battles that take things up a notch. Here, timing is everything and th at dodge roll must almost always be mastered in order to see things through.
The combat doesn’t feel incredibly deep, but you will adapt and learn how to use what you’ve got, turning most of your deaths into learning experiences of trial and error, as opposed to frustrating bouts of luck and dodgy mechanics. While you’ll push forward with your sword for most of the experience, you’ll discover various chests along your journey that grant you new items for the upper hand in combat. While I would rather not spoil what these items are, it’s worth noting that Tunic generally rewards exploration in a way that feels balanced, going hand in hand with general progression as you naturally stumble through this world.
The Journey Ahead
While Tunic’s objective is ultimately vague, travelling through this world is incredibly interesting, thanks to some light puzzle-solving elements and a vibrant, charming art style. You’ll find your way through the world simply by diving into its unexplored corners, but you’ll often find yourself traversing back to previously inaccessible areas thanks to a new discovery. While the sword is mainly used in combat, you’ll soon find that it can cleave through trees and bushes, opening up previously blocked areas. It’s moments like these that appeal to the retro gamer in all of us, back to a time when progression was discovered and not directed.
The art style is also gorgeous, filled with many vibrant colours and minimal textures. This new physical release offers up nothing new in terms of performance, but you’ll find it runs at 1080p 30fps on the Nintendo Switch, while we reviewed the PlayStation 5 version, which runs at 4K 60fps and even comes with DualSense support. Tunic might only be a year old, but I would be surprised if this game were to age in any meaningful way. I’m just glad that it runs as well as it does.
Tunic is charming and therapeutic, but also deep and challenging. Thanks to its minimal yet vibrant art style and functional combat, there’s plenty to love about a tale of a little fox on a mysterious journey. Tunic might have been one of the best indie experiences of 2022, but thanks to these newer physical releases, there’s no reason why it can’t be one of the best games you should get around to this year.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Highlights: Gorgeous visuals; Engaging exploration and narrative
Lowlights: Combat can be particularly challenging at times
Developer: Andrew Shouldice, TUNIC Team, Isometricorp Games Limited, 22nd Century Toys LLC
Publisher: Fangamer, Finji
Platforms: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows PC
Review conducted on PlayStation 5 with a code provided by the publisher.