With an adorable fox in a little green tunic–brandishing a sword and shield in its quest to save the world–it might have been easy for Tunic to wear its influences too proudly on its sleeve. From a high-level perspective, it’s got all the trappings of a classic Legend of Zelda adventure, from color-coded McGuffins to collect, to distinct biomes that require certain tools and tricks to navigate through. For much of the game’s opening, it sticks strictly to a formula you’re mostly familiar with, inviting the desire for something new just as it introduces it with generosity. From that point on, Tunic is entirely its own thing, eschewing any assumptions you might have made about its structure and delivering an engrossing, surprising, adventure.
Central to this feat is a core mechanic that feels unique to Tunic: an in-game manual. When you pause Tunic, you’re presented with a fuzzy view of the game world as a backdrop to a crisp game manual; a neat little trick that informs you that you’re not actually playing Tunic; you’re playing as someone else playing it instead. As you explore Tunic’s world, you’ll uncover new lost pages for this game manual, inviting you to immediately pause and inspect them. Many, initially, are simple tutorials; hit this button to attack, use this one to block, and be aware that you can use these simple items in these basic ways.
The fundamentals of Tunic are portrayed in the more eye-catching pieces of information details on each page, but its more-fascinating hints are strewn around its periphery. Little pencil etchings make references to symbols you may or may not have seen before, with supplementary printed imagery that doesn’t make sense within the context of the core messaging you’ve already gleaned from the page in question. Like the world that it’s describing, this game manual is its own puzzle; one that unlocks secrets within the world, leading you to more pages to help piece together its much larger, hidden message.
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Author: Alessandro Barbosa