In recent years, I’ve become a big fan of games that are easy-going and allow me to relax while playing at the end of a long day. Some of my favorite games of this ilk that I’ve played in the past are Hyper Light Drifter, The Witness, and Journey. Each of these titles new how to combine engaging gameplay with an aesthetic that felt calming and almost hypnotic.
Recently at E3, I was able to see the next game that I think fits perfectly into this same mold. Tunic is an adventure game developed solely by Andrew Shouldice that features a cute anthropomorphic fox exploring a mysterious world. With subtle sound effects and a beautiful synth-heavy soundtrack, Tunic quickly pulls you in piques your curiosity about what lies around every corner.
Shouldice showed off about twenty minutes of Tunic gameplay to give me an idea as to how it will play. The demo opened with our adorable unnamed fox protagonist waking on a beach. Upon making your way forward into the world, you quickly run across your first set of monsters. Without a weapon to defeat them, you quickly run into a nearby cave and find a treasure chest that contains a stick within it. Armed with this new item, our fox reemerges and can smack the monsters to death with its branch.
Gaining new items like this is what allows you to continue to progress within the world of Tunic. Later on in our demo, a set of large bushes were blocking our character’s path. After wandering around for a bit though, our cute fox found a sword, returned to the bushes, and was able to cut through them like butter.
Shouldice told me that Tunic will often gate players advancement in this manner but won’t always wholly prevent them from moving forward in the world without a specific item. While it might not always be advisable to move on without specific gear, there are other ways to navigate past obstacles that don’t require specific items.
From the description of Tunic’s moment-to-moment gameplay, you probably have realized that it shares a lot of commonalities with one classic gaming franchise. Tunic wears its inspirations on its sleeve and Shouldice had no problem admitting to me just how much of an influence The Legend of Zelda games were for him. While some might quickly glance at Tunic and see it as a ripoff of Zelda, it’s the overall tone and feeling of Tunic that makes it feel distinct from those in its genre.
One of the most impressive things about Tunic and one of the biggest things that set it apart is its fantastic animations. From the simple bouncing of your fox character as they trot to the way that foliage moves when you walk through it, each of these animations look visually appealing and further add to the game’s charm.
These gorgeous animations combined with the stellar sound effect work which is being done by Kevin Regamey and the team at Power Up Audio help give Tunic a unique vibe that looks and feels different from anything I’ve seen in quite some time. Even if it is sharing ideas from other classic adventure games, Tunic’s proof that an art style, soundtrack, and overall aesthetic can go a long way to making a game feel entirely original.
The one thing that I’m still left thinking about with Tunic weeks after seeing the game is its story. Shouldice was dodgy when I asked about story details, but he told me that there’s a tale to tell. Even though there is no dialogue within Tunic, there did happen to be a secret language that conveyed written words. When I asked Shouldice about whether or not this text could be translated to English, he had a smirk on his face and told me that he’s too busy to do something as crazy as creating a different language. I have a feeling that deciphering this language once Tunic releases will help reveal more of its story.
At its core, Tunic is about exploration and discovering what lies within this island that your fox is on. While many adventure games emphasize exploring, some of them don’t succeed due to their worlds not being intriguing enough. Even though I only saw a small slice, Tunic seems to have one of the most exciting game worlds I have seen in quite some time. What Andrew Shouldice has created all on his own is nothing short of remarkable. If the rest of the game turns out as impressive as the slice that I saw, then Tunic could end up being one of the next big indie darlings.
My only complaint with Tunic is that it’s not arriving sooner. Shouldice told me that Tunic is still a way out, but he hopes to release it in 2019. While I’m saddened that I have to be patient for a bit longer, I do not doubt that it’ll be well worth the wait. Whenever Tunic does end up launching, it’ll be published by Finji and will arrive on PC and Xbox One as a console exclusive.