Chameleon Games’ sugar-sweet retro platforms in 3D do not quite reach the end of implementation.
Tamarin is on paper a match made in heaven for us: platform (which we love), retro-inspired music and high cuteness factor in the graphics (yes, come on, Ratchet & Clank is cute too). Little studio Chameleon Games has delayed the game before, but now it’s out on PC, XB1 and PS4. The result? A mixed bag of sweets, unfortunately.
The story is A1-generic, the cute Tamarine (a tamarin is a kind of monkey), with the imaginative name Tamarin, will regain its place as the king of the beasts in the forest by averting the invasion of giant insects and rescuing birds and dragonflies along the way. Well, it’s not for the story we play platform games but for the jumping, the fumbling and the action sequences.
Tamarin looked stingingly beautiful and sugary in advance. In reality, this is not really the case. The protagonist is still hairy cuddly, but there is an edge glow and aura around him and many objects that almost make us think of old video artifacts of too bad compression (hair is notoriously difficult to render, so it may have something to do with it to do – not even Square Enix completely succeeded Final Fantasy VII Remake, if you look at the drone around Clouds nail nail). Tracks and enemies are not overly detailed or varied and even if there are nice light effects here, it becomes clear that Tamarin neither had the budget nor the crew to look like a AAA game. And that’s OK.
The sound is perhaps the best of all – the loops that play take us back to the children / youth and Amigans wonderful era. These are wonderful melodies, reminiscent of both retro-electronica as well as the chip music you so often heard in the demo scene. We could listen to the soundtrack only and it bodes well because it might be included in Spotify’s collection of retro and game music, or Instant Remedy (search, you will be amazed at how much great game music you will find there already).
This is how we get to the controls, Tamarins great mourners. Basically, they work – but they feel “loose” and the camera has a tendency to slowly want to retreat to some kind of basic position. This is more frustrating than you might think, as – in addition to controlling the protagonist and scouting the environment for hope (it’s 3D) with the camera – you also have to put energy into “resisting” the camera’s forced movement. It also makes selected parts unnecessarily difficult, as it becomes so difficult with precision – something that is quite devastating in a platform game. We can really hope that this is a bug (!?) That will be deleted with future updates. But we can only judge what we have actually tested, not what may happen in the future.
Tamarin feels a bit generic as a game. You do not play good platform games for the story (how varied is Mario for example, where Bowser kidnaps the princess every time?) But here there is very little of a “universe”, the story consists mostly of a hedgehog appearing here and there that gives you exposure and new properties and weapons.
It brings us into the combat system, which is also strange – Tamarin can jump and roll on enemies (a bit like Spyro), but suddenly he gets a machine gun (!), Walks on two legs and aims at insects while filling them with lead . It’s cute in a morbid way in all its bizarre incorporation, but also misplaced and the precision here is not much better than the game’s precision in general. In some places – but only very certain places – can Tamarin do super jumps with a button combo, otherwise you have to plan and run jumps with roller technology.
All in all, we really wanted to love Tamarin; it’s cute, it’s 3D platform and it has a great soundtrack. The game is clearly playable and even entertaining, at least for short periods of time. It is tough for small studios to reach audiences with their products, so the ambition and focus must be on making an excellent, albeit more limited product, instead of sacrificing the necessary elements and trying to imitate AAA. Considering all the competition out there (just the fact that three old Mario classics got remasters for Switch this week) it will be difficult to penetrate the noise. The controls are a bit too bad and the ambition is too Tamarin, from a small studio, is, as I said, honorable. But the same (New) Super Luckys Tale there are too many small flaws to succeed in rising above the approved line.