Fight the Roguelike
Created by a one-man team and ported from iOS and Wii U, it is hard to knock Tallowmere on Nintendo Switch too much given the circumstances. Published through Teyon, their first Switch title, this indie action roguelike platformer isn’t all bad but has its share of problems.
Using 8-bit graphics, Tallowmere has players progressing further and further into a dungeon, each time different than the last thanks to randomly generated levels. The problem is the randomness is often too random and can make some runs much more unfair than others. Since each stage is ultimately composed of giant square blocks, there are no curves or organic features, making each stage seem more drab than the last. Also, it is frustrating when the one enemy you need to kill is walking back and forth in a one-tile length section of the environment and the player only has an ax, a weapon that essentially ensures that a hit must be taken to get close enough to the enemy due to a top-down attack.
Upon death, and expect to die a lot and often due to the challenging nature of gameplay, the player loses everything and must start all over again like any roguelike. Each room follows a formula so at least the player knows what to expect: one enemy in room one, two main enemies in room two, etc. Sprinkled throughout are smaller enemies, like bats that always get in the way, or environmental traps like spikes, spinning blades, or walls that fart toxic gas at you, and even an occasional boss that will most likely kill the heck out of you. Because everything is designed to murder your face off, the difficulty factor is always high as the player rarely finds the powerful items or armor that is needed not only to survive but to make ample progress. When you eventually luck out and find that one powerful weapon that grants auto-regenerating health with a powerful attack, the game almost becomes laughably easy. Balancing is an issue for sure. Just make sure you don’t kill yourself with those grenades.
The goal of each room is to kill the one specific enemy that holds the key to unlock the door to the next room. This means not every monster needs to be defeated but each drop gold in which the player can warp back to the hub area to purchase new stuff. However, the reason the player will most likely want to warp back to town is to heal for free by talking to Tallowmere, the princess and game’s name. Cheap players can abuse this system by warping back and forth just to heal as soon as any damage is received. There is also the option to make the game more difficult, although I have no idea why anyone would want to do this when the game is hard enough, or the player can participate in optional challenge missions. All this is accessed through the poorly designed hub area but at least the player has infinite jumps, one of the stand out features of gameplay. In time, the player will also gain levels in which stats are randomly increased, providing a minor RPG flavor.
There is an option for four players to play co-op locally and this is really the best way to play if you want to make any sort of reasonable progress into the dungeon. The loose play control is also an issue and learning to block is a must. The player must also acknowledge the strengths of any given weapon to take advantage of the situation. For example, if you find grenades, spam that attack from high ledges. Need to dispatch an enemy quickly, use a katana. Each weapon does feel different enough to offer some replayability but it is sort of awkward to fight with flamethrowers and grenades simply because of the medieval setting of the environment and enemies.
There is a local leaderboard and built-in Achievements but this is not enough to shine through the tedious flaws. Still standing as one of the better Teyon published games, Tallowmere, a $6.99 and 57mb digital eShop download, might offer a moment of fun if you are into punishing roguelikes and can play for fifteen minutes with a friend or two.