Developed by Canadian indie developer Andrew Shouldice, Tunic is the journey of a cute little fox equipped with a sword, a shield and a bunch of magic objects. You start in the center of a colorful world filled with monsters and secrets. This is a game of exploration, with many branching areas to unlock once you obtain the correct tools or abilities.
Some systems are definitely inspired by the Souls series but combat-wise, Tunic is really not as hard—without being casual either. Learning the attack pattern of new enemies and not underestimating them is still key to not lose precious health points and die.
The bonfires checkpoints are also set up by people with a heart. The attention brought to death penalty in Tunic made me enjoy it a lot more too. You can retry what you failed super quickly and everything is fair. I died a few times for being too eager to attack when I should have been blocking or dodging enemies but I never felt punished by my beginner’s lack of knowledge of the game. Tunic is not cruel and I was always having fun.
The unique gameplay mechanic that I enjoyed the most is the discovery of booklet pages scattered throughout the world. There are 28 of them (double-sided for a total of 55 pages). At first glance, they look like collectible artworks and a nostalgic love letter to Zelda, but they turn Tunic into its very own special thing that deserves the spotlight.
Indeed, Tunic is a metapuzzle game that starts before you know it. When it clicked, it reminded me of when Fez or Baba Is You clicked, but those were already puzzle games to start with. Tunic is much more clever than what it was willing to show at first.
Again in the Souls series, there are a lot of very obscure mechanics or far-fetched secrets that make the whole experience pretty hardcore or tedious if you can’t figure them out by yourself, while having prior knowledge of the game thanks to external sources allows you to take the path of least resistance.
Tunic is different. You might ask yourself a lot of questions in the beginning but the game itself will answer them through all of those pages when the time is right. With some detective work, that fake manual will eventually provide everything you need to succeed by yourself: maps, diagrams, basic mechanics you might not have tried yet, hints, riddles, and just enough English keywords to guess what everything is meant for.
Unlike most intricate games, there’s nothing I wish I knew before playing Tunic. The devs went far and beyond common expectations to deliver an ongoing understanding of a carefully designed world, in which curiosity is always rewarded.
On top of that, the art of that booklet is fantastic. It looks like a real scan. It’s second-hand, scribbled on and stained with coffee marks. It feels authentic despite the gibberish language (or is it?). As you keep progressing and you look back at old pages, perhaps zoom in on them, you realize how brilliant Tunic is.
Behind its challenging action-adventure cover is also a great puzzle game of wonder and mystery.