Tembo The Badass Elephant – out tomorrow on PS4 – is the type of game I’ve always wanted to make. As a kid growing up in England in the ‘90s, I would play a lot of platform games on the SNES and Mega Drive, and then come up with my own characters and game ideas, sketching them out with coloured pencils.
I never really grew out of it, and ended up working in the games industry, in London at first, moving to Japan later, eventually joining Game Freak about five years ago.
Game Freak are most famous as the creators of Pokémon, but they have a history of making great action games too, like Pulseman for the Mega Drive, or Drill Dozer for the Game Boy Advance.
I pitched the company my idea for a new mascot character game, Tembo The Badass Elephant, and they liked it. After we made a demo version, they greenlit the project for production.
The starting point for the game was the character of Tembo himself: a big, powerful elephant commando who can bulldoze almost anything in his path.
Tembo comes from the jungle island of Tuskland, where he fought in a human war alongside a colonel named Krenman. Many years after that war, Krenman is back in his native Shell City, when it’s invaded by an evil army known as PHANTOM.
Krenman, realising he needs some serious wrecking power, calls upon his old friend Tembo to destroy the nefarious PHANTOM and save the city.
A really important element of this game is the way that Tembo controls. We spent a lot of time making him feel heavy and strong, yet speedy and precise. You can stampede through enemies and objects, racking up combos as you go, then spring into a jump and butt stomp through meters of concrete in one satisfying chain of action.
We wanted enemies to provide a good challenge for the badass Tembo, so the PHANTOM army will throw some heavy duty characters at you, from tanks and helicopters to massive mechanical bosses. Towards the end of the game the screen will be pretty much full of enemies trying to destroy you with missiles, bombs, and body blows.
To realise this kind of frenetic, physics-based action, we needed to use the power of the current generation of hardware. Working on the PS4 was a great experience. The artists could fill the screen with high resolution textures and environmental effects, and the level designers could pack levels with objects and enemies to destroy.
One thing I personally like about PS4 is the controller. For this game, the D-pad works well, and I like its placement and the way it feels. The controller’s vibration feels particularly good, and works nicely when you’re smashing up in-game scenery.
It’s a new and exciting experience for Game Freak to be releasing a game for PlayStation 4. I hope you’re excited to play!