If you’d have told me that a Sega Mega Drive game would be released in 2018 a few years back I would have told you that you were wrong. If you’d have also told me that that Sega Mega Drive game was going to be developed on original hardware like most other Sega Mega Drive games I would not have believed you. Well it happened and it happened in the form of Tanglewood. In an era where console gaming is dominated by the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch; it’s hard to believe that an actual Sega Mega Drive cartridge was produced on original hardware. One man is responsible for such an achievement and his name is Matt Philips. Matt is responsible for single handedly developing Tanglewood after successfully securing Kickstarter funding. Is Tanglewood a tangled-mess of a game though? I’ve been playing a lot of the game over the past week after being sent a press review cartridge.
Nymn is our fury fox like creature. Tanglewood starts with Nymn sound asleep only to waken being all alone. In an interview I did with Matt earlier this year he had this to say about Tanglewood:
“Tanglewood is a fantasy platforming game staring Nymn, a small creature who is lost from home. Nymn must try to survive each dangerous night alone in Tanglewood, by using his skills of evasion and trickery to escape the monsters that lurk in the dark.
“… The characters were designed as otherworldly, but fox and meerkat were the two main inspirations for Nymn. I wanted something that looked terrified, but was nimble and quick to escape danger. We experimented with many facial expressions and head shapes to get that scared and cautious look. The lore of the world involves another extinct race, that used to hunt down the Djunn for food whilst riding some of the monsters in game, but since they all passed away Nymn and his kind were able to live in relative peace - as long as they disappeared underground at night”
Tanglewood is simple yet extremely effective. If you choose to miss out on Tanglewood then you’ll be selling yourself short.
Okay so we have to get this one out there. There had been some reported issues with Tanglewood playing on HD and 4K televisions through original hardware. I was asked to review Tangelwood on my Sega Mega Drive but found this very difficult to find beauty in what is an absolutely gorgeous game. I spoke to Matt about the issue and he recommended I use a CRT TV or obtain a gold SCART cable. My hook-up was my original Sega Mega Drive and RF cable. I later switched to my AV cable but I could not seem to get a crisp picture. I had no choice but to switch to my Retron 5.
I wanted a true Tanglewood experience so I played with no filter and added the classy 90’s scan lines. Tanglewood looked stunning. The sprites on Nymn (our foxy little protagonist) moved with ease as Nymn ran from left to right. The colour palette was made up of deep shades of purple, orange, green, brown with the occasional splash of yellow. I don’t think I have been this impressed by graphics in a 16bit game as much as I have with Tanglewood.
At times when you move from one area/level to another the background shifts in suite ways. It may get darker of lighter which adds a little splash of dynamism to Tanglewood.
There is no ugly HUD! For me this was a really nice touch. There is no life meter, no points tally, no nothing and it really works. Tanglewood looks beautiful in every way.
Tanglewood plays out surprisingly well. One of the first things to catch my attention was the thudding of Nymn's feet as he runs. There's a soothing pounding that is amplified when there is no music. You literally have to play it to know what I mean.
Nymn makes use of fox holes to travel and reach certain areas of each level. These holes either thrust you upwards to higher levels or act as a transport system. Not only can Nymn use them but the Fuzzles can also be pushed in to the holes too. What are fuzzles? At first I called them fluff balls as they are coloured, fluffy balls with huge eyes. Each Fuzzle has a different colour and depending on the colour will depend on the ability that Nymn temporarily inherits. Yellow fuzzles allow Nymn to fly. It's not as straightforward as this though. Nymn must push the fuzzles to a certain area of the level in order for their powers to activate.
Tanglewood can be full of danger. At times speed and agility are Nymn's main hopes of avoiding the huge beast that chases you on various levels. Luckily I discovered that if you jump at the right time mid-chase then Nymn will clip the snout of the beast; stunning him temporarily. When Nymn reaches a safe point there is usually a huge rock to drop on his head and voila; the beast dies.
At ties there are some slight glitches in the Fuzzle animation when they are pushed in to the holes. At times I noticed the Fuzzles flying out of the holes and at other times this would not occur. Small details like like are noticeable but fortunately do not detract from the overall experience.
I cannot recommend Tanglewood on the Sega Mega Drive enough. Tanglewood is available now on Steam and will see a full release on the Sega Mega Drive, Sega Genesis and is playable on the Retron 5. According to the Tanglewood website cartridges are not region locked either. To learn more about Tanglewood watch my review on my YouTube channel.
Blog post by: Gemma @ Juicy Game Reviews / TheGebs24
Retro Game Reviews. Mega Drive, Super Nintendo, Sega Dreamcast and more
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