As a 90’s kid, there will always be a special place in my heart for top down adventure games, so when I first saw Tunic I knew I had to give a go. There are a lot of comparisons to be made to the early Zelda games with solving puzzles, hacking away with your sword, and solving mysteries. Tunic takes a lot of those old elements and reminds us of how simple games can become complicated.

As you first start your playthrough, you’re going to be scratching your head on what to do. It kind of reminds me of the souls games in the sense of how you are just thrown into the game. The mystery is the staple of Tunic. You don’t know where you are, what you are doing, or what language is even being spoken. As you progress, you’ll find pages to an “instruction manual” that nudges you in the right direction. I love the lack of hand holding and how the game can naturally get you going into the right direction without waypoints. It’s a breath of fresh air that I would expect many will appreciate.

One thing that sets this game apart over others, is the world building. Everything feels purposeful in the world. I imagine the developers being like those people that put those ships in glass bottles. Utilizing smart camera angles, the developers let you see everything they want you to see. You won’t notice the areas behind buildings until the game leads you through it. Every time I came back to the main area through a secret passage, I was just like, “You son of a b****, you got me again.” The map design is just insanely clever and continually opens up as you get new abilities.

Tunic starts out in a basic manor. You pick up a weapon and you hit the enemy with that weapon. There is a dodge to avoid attacks, but everything else is obtained later in the game. Other items are eventually found that use MP that switch up how you’ll play the game. Outside of abilities to dodge, block, and heal, the game lets you assign three items to use by pressing square, triangle, and circle. You can mix and match how you like, and that’s where play styles can change drastically. For instance, I primarily used the gun, sword, and bombs. However, you can play without using any of those three and you’ll learn that it’s best to mess around with it against bosses.

Bosses in this game will make or break you. While most enemies won’t rollover in Tunic, they are nothing compared to the bosses. Each boss is has their own challenges and unique ways of tackling them. You’ll want to play with what you have in the arsenal and find out what works best to drop their health down without getting hurt. I sure had my fair share of frustrations and countless deaths when I was on the brink of victory. Most players will go through their own set of trials, but there is a no fail mode if it’s just too much for you to handle. I don’t recommend doing that, because I do think the triumph of these difficult sections feels very rewarding.

Instead, try to find items that you can take to the alter to upgrade your character. It’s a well kept secret in the game, but it might be what holds up your run if you aren’t doing it. These items can improve your strength, health, stamina, etc. For a player of my skillset, I needed to make sure my character was constantly upgraded to overcome the game’s challenges.

As much as Tunic wants to get your blood pumping with high stakes battles, it also wants to make sure you are calm and collected. The scenery is beautiful and just fun to look at. There’s specifically an area where a boss is that was one of my favorite scenes in a video game. The music also backs up the aesthetics well with a serene beat. I don’t think the soundtrack is as beautiful as a game like Death’s Door, but its still great to listen to. It makes traversing the map even more enjoyable and worth your while.

Once you are finished with the main game, I’m sure there will be plenty left for you to do. You’ll want to open every chest you previously missed and discover the plethora of secrets left in the game. Many of the trophies are tied to the secrets where you input codes in specific areas. I will say there gets to a point where you’ve “been there, done that” and you get over doing the secrets, but they are very fun to figure out at first. You’ll also want to collect all the pages in the booklet, because there is a secret ending you can see if you beat the final boss again with all of them collected.

Speaking of that secret ending. The story in Tunic takes a minimalistic approach. There’s not much in the sense of cutscenes or dialogue. However, that secret ending changes the story immensely. There’s a long lineage of taking what’s yours in the fox’s dominion, but things can change for the better.

All in all, Tunic is a must play game. From the charming scenery and music to the intense fights, there is always something to enjoy about the game. I do understand it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but you’ll love it if you are into this style of game. Andrew Shouldice carefully crafted an engaging world full of wonder and mystery. There’s plenty to do in the 15 hours of gametime, and none of it will feel like it’s just filler. Tunic is a lover letter to all the fans of classic adventure games, and it deserves to be in the running for game of the year.